Swing By Any Time, Sabres: Huge Nights All Around in 7-2 Flyers Win

Swing By Any Time, Sabres: Huge Nights All Around in 7-2 Flyers Win

We didn't quite get the fast start we were hoping for from the Flyers, but they sure made up for it. They were booed off the ice after a lousy first period saw them down 2-0, and in the dressing room, Peter Laviolette probably gave it to them much worse. They responded with four unanswered goals in the second, headed off to a standing ovation, then came back out and continued to pile on.

Max Talbot played a huge role in turning the game around, and he has two more goals to add to his career high. Same goes for Wayne Simmonds, who also tallied a pair to give him 20 on the season. And they weren't even the Flyers' high scorers. With a small army of injured forwards, the Flyers scoring depth was on display.

Let's get a look at why so many Flyers will remember this one for years to come.

UGLY START
Already without Jaromir Jagr (flu) and JVR (concussion), the Flyers got a scare when Simmonds' face was cut during warmups. Simmonds don the full face shield, seemingly with no ill effects. But the Flyers looked to be in some serious trouble early, conceding the game's first two goals. Jason Pominville was as open as it gets on the back door when he slammed home a Tyler Myers pass that went through the crease. Thomas Vanek made Ilya Bryzgalov look shaky on a blazing slapshot, and the fans began to prepare the torches and pitchforks.

Even after having seen it all shake out, it's still kinda nuts to look back to that first period and think the Sabres wouldn't score again, while the Flyers scored at will and probably pushed Buffalo a little further into the "Sellers" column.

ALL OF THE GOALS
A lot of Flyers are going to remember this one, with some clear career highlights mixed into a seven-goal surge.

The top line was sans Jagr, and, nothing against the 40-year-old surgeon, but his linemates seemed to do OK without him. Claude Giroux was a silent killer, putting FIVE POINTS on the board, all on assists, getting him within two points of Evgeni Malkin's league-best 69. G's linemate Scott Hartnell also had a big night, scoring a goal and assisting three others. Talbot did some time with them, as did Jake Voracek, both of whom also scored.

Durrrty Second
Talbot reminded me of Mike Richards in some old games when the Flyers got off to a bad start. He got loud with his play, scoring, scrapping, and drawing ire. Every shift he took in the second period, you knew where he was on the ice. His deflection of a Braydon Coburn shot was very nice, and opened the scoring floodgates for the Flyers.

Simmonds got the next two, both on the power play and nearly mirror images of each other. You might think wearing the full face shield would mess with his ability to play puck at his feet, but both of Simmer's goals came from in tight, putting home juicy rebounds off the pads of Jhonas Enroth. He now has 20 goals, nine of which came on the man advantage. Kind of amazing that in 49 games as a King, Richards has six fewer goals than Simmonds does in 56.

Erik Gustafsson gets a puck with a ring of tape and some marker on it after potting his first NHL goal to close out the scoring in a four-goal Flyers second.

Give some props to Tom Sestito for kickstarting the second period with a nice fight against Zack Kassian. Sestito appeared to have the better of Kassian most of the way, but got turned around and popped a few times before they both fell to the ice. Something went wrong there for Tito, who left the game with a lower-body injury and would not return.

Murderous Third
Talbot scored again in the second, giving him 16 on the season. The goal looked a bit like the Sabres' first tally, with Eric Wellwood sending a long pass across the slot to a wide open shooter. Talbot went to one knee and buried the one-timer.

Jake Voracek became the 10th Flyer in double digits for goals, and Hartnell closed the night's account with his 27th, putting home an amazing saucer pass from Matt Read. Seven to freaking two.

CHASERS
In the teams' first meeting, Ryan Miller gave up three goals on 11 shots and was pulled for Enroth. Miller would give up five goals in the next meeting. Tonight, Enroth got the start, and despite none of the goals allowed really being on him (a deflection and two rebounds—all screened by the eventual scorer), was pulled for Miller. Who proceeded to give up four goals of his own…

DANNY DOWN
In the first period, everyone's favorite Buffalo Sabre (Patrick Kaleta) smeared Danny Briere along the boards and into the stanchion. Briere didn't seem terribly affected by it, taking a slashing penalty as revenge. But, after serving that out, Briere skated off the ice and would not return with a currently undisclosed upper-body injury. With his concussion earlier this season, gotta be a bit worried there. [video]

VIDEO RECAP

REMEDY
It's just one game after a handful of crappy ones, but the Flyers showed almost exactly what we needed to see. There was the lousy start, but really, who cares about that right now. No goals against on the penalty kill. Two power play goals. Career highs.

Just can't rest on any of those feelings. Huge game against Pittsburgh this Saturday.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

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Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."