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.

Fellow rookies predict Ben Simmons to come in 3rd for ROY award

Fellow rookies predict Ben Simmons to come in 3rd for ROY award

Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram headlined this year’s draft. Now that the players are nearing training camp, they are looking ahead to how their class will fair in the upcoming season. 

NBA.com talked to 38 rookies at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot this month to get their takes on their counterparts.

Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were named in the majority of the responses. Below are the categories in which the Sixers' rookies garnered votes. 

2016-17 Rookie of the Year
1. Kris Dunn (Timberwolves): 29.0 percent
2. Ingram (Lakers): 25.8 percent
3. Simmons (Sixers): 19.4 percent
Embiid and Saric also received votes

Best career
1. Ingram (Lakers): 26.7 percent
2. Dunn (Timberwolves): 16.7 percent 
3. Buddy Hield (Pelicans): 13.3 percent
Tie-4. Dragan Bender (Suns), Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Simmons: 6.7 percent
Dario Saric also received votes

Most athletic
1. Brown (Celtics): 38.7 percent
2. Brice Johnson (Clippers): 16.1 percent
3. Marquese Chriss (Suns): 9.7 percent
Tie-4. Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Kay Felder (Cavs), Gary Payton II (Rockets): 6.5 percent
Simmons also received votes

Best shooter
1. Hield (Pelicans): 65.7 percent
2. Murray (Nuggets): 20.0 percent
Luwawu-Cabarrot also received votes

Best playmaker
1. Dunn (Timberwolves): 29.4 percent
2. Simmons (Sixers): 26.5 percent
3. Tyler Ulis (Suns): 20.6 percent
4. Denzel Valentine (Bulls): 8.8 percent
5. Felder (Cavs): 5.9 percent
Saric also received votes

Funniest
1. Dunn (Timberwolves): 15.2 percent
Tie-2. Diamond Stone (Clippers), Denzel Valentine (Bulls): 12.1 percent
Tie-4. Brice Johnson (Clippers), Taurean Prince (Hawks), Ivica Zubac: 6.1 percent
Luwawu-Cabarrot and Simmons also received votes. Embiid ranked first in this category when he was drafted in 2014. 

The end is near: Pete Mackanin to cut back Ryan Howard's playing time

The end is near: Pete Mackanin to cut back Ryan Howard's playing time

Pete Mackanin has picked his spots with the pitchers he has let Ryan Howard face in recent months and that helped Howard carry post-All Star break numbers like a .306 batting average and .653 slugging percentage into Tuesday’s night game against the Washington Nationals and their right-handed ace, Max Scherzer.

Scherzer is the type of power arm that Mackanin often protects Howard from.

But despite awful career numbers — 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts — against Scherzer, Howard was in the starting lineup at first base over Tommy Joseph on Tuesday night.

Listening to Mackanin explain his reasoning, one came away with the impression that Howard’s playing time is about to nosedive as he and the Phillies begin their last month together.

“Just to get him in there,” Mackanin said when asked why he was starting Howard against a pitcher who’d dominated him in the past. “I’m going to start using Joseph more. I’ll play [Howard] today and [Joseph] tomorrow and then I’ll lean on Joseph a little bit more the rest of the way.”

Why?

“To see him more,” Mackanin said. “I’m not saying I’m going to strictly play Joseph, but I have to get him as many at-bats as possible through the end of the season.”

Makes sense. The Phillies will part ways with the 36-year-old Howard after the season. Joseph, 25, has not won the first base job long term, but he has a chance to, especially if he can improve his on-base skills. His power numbers — 17 homers and a .500 slugging percentage in 250 at-bats — are excellent.

Mackanin was asked whether the decision to pull back on Howard’s playing time was his or whether it came down from above.

“It’s my own,” he said. “I think it makes sense to see Joseph as much as possible. Howie was swinging the bat extremely well. I’m just going to see if he can put something together against Scherzer. A lot of people don’t have good numbers against Scherzer anyway. Lefties at least hit him better.”

Mackanin said he wants to make sure Joseph gets plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitching down the stretch.

“I don’t want to happen to him what happened to [Darin] Ruf, where we didn’t have opportunities to get him at-bats,” Mackanin said.

While Mackanin wants to look at Joseph more, he has no intention to look at 23-year-old Rule 5 outfielder Tyler Goeddel more as the season winds down. Reserve Jimmy Paredes continued to get outfield reps with the start in left field on Tuesday night.

“I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know — we’ve kept him this long and we’re going to keep him and we’ll see where we go next year with him,” Mackanin said. “I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much. What’s the point?

“Paredes, he’s an extra player. That’s why we got him. I’m trying to put some offense into the lineup and he’s been swinging the bat pretty well. Peter Bourjos is coming off his wrist injury; I’m just trying to get Paredes as many at-bats as possible to see if he can help us win games. But he’s not an everyday player right now here for us.”

Tim Tebow shows power in baseball tryout but clearly still needs work

Tim Tebow shows power in baseball tryout but clearly still needs work

LOS ANGELES — Tim Tebow crushed a batting-practice fastball with a confident left-handed swing, sending it into the trees next to the scoreboard beyond right field.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback only paused an instant to appreciate his shot, and then he went right back to work on the unlikely next chapter in his unique athletic story.

Tebow took his first big swings at a baseball career Tuesday, showing off a powerful bat and other developing skills during a workout in front of dozens of major league scouts and reporters.

The 29-year-old aspiring outfielder went through drills at the University of Southern California's Dedeaux Field for over an hour, confidently chasing a dream deferred for 12 years. Declaring his football career essentially over, Tebow insists he is serious about becoming more than a baseball curiosity.

"The goal would be to have a career in the big leagues," Tebow said. "I just want to be someone to pursue what I believe in, what I'm passionate about. A lot of people will say, `But what if you fail? What if you don't make it?' Guess what? I don't have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. I would rather be someone that could live with peace and no regret than what-if, or being scared."

Tebow's heavily muscled, 255-pound physique and 6.70-ish time in the 60-yard dash were impressive to the scouts. He also showed undeniable hitting ability with a series of line drives and long homers during batting practice.

But Tebow also showed he still needs baseball seasoning when he faced live pitching from former big-leaguers David Aardsma and Chad Smith, who repeatedly fooled him with off-speed pitches. Tebow could only grin in frustration after he fanned on a series of changeups and breaking balls.

"There is 100 percent nerves, no question about it," Tebow said. "When you're at the combine or a pro day, you have your body of work for four years, everything that you did, so it's not just that one day. Here, you might have seen me when I was 17, but you haven't seen me since. A lot goes into it, so you'd better show something. A lot of nerves, a lot of pressure, for sure."

Tebow hasn't played baseball regularly since his junior year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. He left early to enroll at Florida, beginning a fabled college football career that led to the 2007 Heisman and two national titles for the Gators.

But 12 years ago, Tebow was a .494-hitting, all-county outfielder who loved hitting a baseball every bit as much as he loved leading a huddle.

"The second-hardest decision I ever made was giving up baseball to go to the University of Florida and play football," said Tebow, whose choice of Florida over Alabama was the toughest. "There wasn't a season that went by that it wasn't something that I thought about. When I felt like I had this opportunity, I wanted to take it and pursue it with everything I had."

A few big-league teams talked privately with Tebow after the workout, and he seems unlikely to have trouble finding an organization willing to give a chance to a celebrity with clear baseball ability, however rudimentary.

Tebow realizes he is still far from the big leagues, but he hopes to play in the instructional league in Arizona next month before heading into winter league ball, perhaps even in Latin America.

Tebow decided to pursue his baseball aspirations in earnest three months ago. He began training at a baseball school in Arizona run by Chad Moeller. The former big-league catcher saw daily improvements in Tebow, from his bat speed to his mental game.

"If I'm a team, I'm signing him," Moeller said. "I'm taking him to instructional ball. I'd get him to the Arizona Fall League and get him matched up against some good arms and see what happens. I don't think this is one you're going to take your time on, because he's not a young kid. So you're going to push him. For him and for the teams, I thought if he goes out and performs the way he could and is capable of, you could see it in a year, a year and a half, definitely in the big leagues."

Tebow hasn't played in the NFL since 2012, becoming a broadcaster and resisting attempts to move him to another football position as his quarterback career evaporated. Even while he got an extended look last year from the Philadelphia Eagles, who cut him after the preseason, Tebow said his mind already had wandered back to baseball.

"It's not about publicity," Tebow said. "It's definitely not about money. It's a pay cut to do this. Just pursue what you love, right? Regardless of what else happens. Regardless of if you fail, or if you fall on your face. If that's the worst thing that can happen, that's OK. When did that become such a bad thing? When did pursuing what you love become a bad thing, regardless of the result? For me, yeah, I'll make all the sacrifices to be the best I can."