Talbot & Flyers Host Saturday's Cross-State Rivalry: JVR, Danny, Jagr Return, First Look at Grossman

Talbot & Flyers Host Saturday's Cross-State Rivalry: JVR, Danny, Jagr Return, First Look at Grossman

The Flyers' efforts to shake off a crappy start and throw seven goals on two Sabres netminders were admirable, and hey, pretty fun in the process. But that was the Sabres. The Sabres suck, despite some recent signs of life. The Flyers are supposed to beat the daylights out of a team like that. The losses to the Rangers and Red Wings won't be washed away by beating a non-playoff team,* no matter how wide the margin.

Enter the Penguins, division/conference/cross-state rivals and holders of a record that sees them just two points behind the Flyers. Now we're talking. The Flyers have had trouble getting up for the big games against the Rangers this season, something that'll need to change if they want to be more than just an interesting way to pass our time this spring. But they've had the better of the Pens in both meetings so far this season, including the memorable first visit to Pittsburgh for Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr as Flyers.

A quick look at today's storylines below.

As we discussed back on December 29th, the media really keyed in on Jagr's return to Pittsburgh, and not so much Talbot. Jagr's the higher-profile player, and there was plenty of discussion about his treatment by the Pens, their fans, and vice-versa. But Talbot is the guy who was on the team this time last year, and also the more recent of the two to raise the Cup. We enjoyed the Flyers' snagging both of them over the outstretched hands of the Pens in the off-season, and we soaked up every minute of that win, with both former Penguins scoring in it.

Remember in the first ep of 24/7 when Dan Bylsma poked a little fun at Talbot for being a scorer now? Well, Talbot continued to add to his career-best goal total this season on Thursday, potting two goals as he played a catalyst role in the Flyers' turnaround against the Sabres.

Max now has 16 goals, not far from that nice round 20 milestone most of us wouldn't have imagined when he was signed. He's a huge part of this Flyers team, playing exactly the role desired when he was inked for five seasons.

JVR and Danny to Play?
A source tells Flyers reporter Dave Isaac that James van Riemsdyk will play today, and John Boruk says Danny Briere will as well. Not sure what to expect today, but both guys could really use some jam to get their seasons on track. Jaromir Jagr also returns from illness, so the Flyers are as healthy as they've been in weeks.  

Tom Sestito will miss 6-8 weeks after a groin injury felled him in a fight on Thursday, and Zac Rinaldo is still suspended for today. Jody Shelley is a healthy scratch in favor of Kyle Wellwood. With JVR, Danny, and Jagr all presumably healthy, it's looking like a skill over scrap lineup, though there's still punch available with Hartnell and Talbot. Simmonds too, though he won't throw down if he's still wearing the scuba gear.

The Pens
I think we know enough about this team that we don't need to go into much detail here. Evgeni Malkin continues to thrive without Sidney Crosby, leading the league in scoring with just a two-point lead on Claude Giroux. Like a lot of teams in the league right now, the Pens are trading wins with losses lately. They closed out January with a brilliant run of eight straight wins, five of which came after regulation, four in the shootout. When you're talking about points in the standings won and lost on shootouts, you need look no further than the two teams in Pennsylvania.

In February, the Pens have won three and lost four, including their most recent game, a 2-1 drop to the Ducks.

They'll bring a special teams challenge to the building today, toting the league's 6th best power play and 3rd best PK unit. Pittsburgh scores at the 7th best clip, with the 11th best goals against mark.

First Look at Grossman
New Flyers d-man Nicklas Grossman won't be wearing his usual number 2 today, as that is set to be raised to the rafters early next month. Instead, he'll wear another lofty number, 8. Shortly after Paul Holmgren dealt for Grossman, the Canadiens traded Hal Gill to Nashville. Gill had been rumored to be on the Flyers' radar, and there was probably a domino effect in the two moves.

Homer has discussed liking the size of Grossman and his ability to help out on the PK. I like that he picked him up ahead of the deadline, leaving time to evaluate needs in the coming week. So welcome to Philly, Nick. You'll get a pretty good feel for the energy of the building during warmups for a Flyers-Pens game at 1PM on a February Saturday.

*Holy shit look at the standings. The Sabres are tied for LAST in the East at the moment. The East is a weird, mangled place right now. The first place team in the Southeast Division is, by rule, the three seed. The second place team (Washington at the moment) is outside the playoff bubble.

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.” ​

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.
Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential?
And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams?
A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.
When I started looking at the data and breaking down what’s worthwhile and what’s shall we say, is worthless, it became pretty clear that this should not be a one-person job.
So I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders who each bring a different but valuable perspective to the ranking of players.
And so the only thing that made sense was to take all of our rankings, compile them together and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.
The scoring for this is pretty simple.
Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from Nos. 1-25. Their No. 1 pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and so on.
Here is the first CSN Top 25 NBA Players list, in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.
25. Al Horford, Boston (19 points)
“You can find others with better stats not on this list, but Horford’s track record of success in Atlanta (playoff trips every year he was there, five trips out of the first round in eight postseasons he played in) makes him worthy of being a top-25 player in the NBA.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
24. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (22)
“He can’t shoot free throws, but he can rebound and play defense with the best of them. Jordan didn’t deserve his All-NBA first team selection, but he’s still a high quality big...as long as Chris Paul is tossing up lobs.” – James Ham
23. Andre Drummond, Detroit (23)
“An emerging center who’s the league’s second-best finisher and rebounder, and without that free-throw problem, he would be higher. But … how close to his ceiling is he already?” – Vincent Goodwill
22. Marc Gasol, Memphis (24)
“One of the best passing big men in the game and also one of its best defenders. Has a soft shooting touch and off-the-charts basketball IQ.” – Jason Quick
t-20. Kyle Lowry, Toronto (32)
“Lowry came into the 2015-16 in the best shape of his career. The result was a career year and a two seed in the Eastern Conference. At 30, Lowry may have peaked, but if he can hold this level for another year or two, the Raptors will continue to post 50-plus wins.” – James Ham
t-20. Carmelo Anthony, New York (32)
“One of the more complete scorers but hard to evaluate as he hits the back end of his career; Probably the last season as a primary player on a good team, if the Knicks are to be one.” – Vincent Goodwill
19. John Wall, Washington (42)
“After being All-Defense two years ago, Wall fell off because of bad knees that required surgery on May 5 and yet he still averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season. At 6-4, a big, physical point guard with top-notch speed. Improved mid-range shooter off the bounce but still not a threat in catch-and-shoot situations or from the three-point arc.” – J. Michael
18. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (56)
“Coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 35 games, Griffin still has a ways to go in diversifying his game. Fixing his footwork would help as would moving the ball quicker to create for teammates, but now he's trying to extend his range to the three-point arc. That can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.” – J. Michael
17. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota (63)
“The potential is frightening. Towns burst into the league last season and performed well-beyond his rookie year. He enters his second season with a dominating skill set and a year of wisdom from Kevin Garnett.” – Jessica Camerato 
16. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio (65)
“Owns deadly combination of inside moves and silky mid-range shot, which includes an unblock able turnaround jumper.  Also an above-average defender who can block a shot then beat his man down the court.” – Jason Quick
15. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (75)
“One of the best two-way players in basketball, perhaps the most unlikely player this high on this list. Is there another leap in performance for a guy who’s made three already in his career?” – Vincent Goodwill
14. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland (82)
“His playoff run and more importantly, Finals performance, showed he’s the perfect complement to LeBron James. Not a pure point, but perhaps the best scorer ever at the point guard position.” – Vincent Goodwill
13. Klay Thompson, Golden State (89)
Comment: “Cold-blooded shooter from deep has the temerity to play fabulous defense on the opponent’s more dangerous backcourt player. A two-way All-Star.” – Monte Poole
12. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (96)
“Cousins will take note of his ranking and treat each of us accordingly. He too has a list. And we are all now on it. He’s the best big in the game and he’s primed for the biggest season of his career.” – James Ham
11. James Harden, Houston (101)
“He could get just about any shot he wanted to in the past, and now that he’s going to be the starting point guard, there’s no reason why this guy shouldn’t lead the league in scoring, handily.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
10. Damian Lillard, Portland (102)
“A superb leader who makes everyone in his locker room better, Lillard is also a fearless shooter who craves the big shot. Needs to improve his defense and his shooting percentages, but is emerging as one of the game’s best playmakers.” – Jason Quick
9. Anthony Davis, New Orleans (103)
“Davis, a double-double machine, is returning from injury. Will he play more than 70 games for the first time in his career? It remains to be seen how much Davis will help the Pelicans improve from their 30-win season.” – Jessica Camerato 
8. Draymond Green, Golden State (115)
“At 6-7, can defend an All-NBA center such as DeAndre Jordan or switch onto an elite point guard such as Chris Paul and win those battles. Green isn't a system player. He is the system for Golden State, which allows the other All-Stars on the team to prosper while he does a lot of the dirty work.” – J. Michael  
7. Paul George, Indiana (129)
“Can score, rebound, defend and now with a clean bill of health, George and his retooled Pacers teammates will be a force in the East this season.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (134)
“An elite defender and floor general, the nine-time All-Star is also probably one of the NBA’s best competitors, which rubs off on his team. At age 31, the question is how much longer can he continue to check the young point guards?” – Jason Quick
5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (149)
“Leonard's impact on the Spurs will be magnified this season following the retirement of Tim Duncan. Look for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to try to get his team back atop the West.  – Jessica Camerato
t-3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (155)
“Tied for 3rd with his new arch nemesis? Westbrook will statistically flourish in his new role as King of the Dust Bowl. It may not lead him to a Western Conference showdown against Durant and his Warriors, but it’s hard to count him out.” – James Ham 
t-3. Kevin Durant, Golden State (155)
“Famous for scoring from deep, he is deadly on the block, a default rim protector, the best rebounding small forward alive and has a full grasp of the team game.” – Monte Poole
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State (162)
“Back-to-back MVP, including first unanimous winner, his incredible shooting range stretches defenses like no one we’ve ever seen. A legitimate game-changer. – Monte Poole
1. LeBron James, Cleveland  (175)
“DJ Khaled’s “All I do is win” hit from 2010 really should be the soundtrack to LeBron James’ career which now includes title bling in two cities – Miami (2 titles) and Cleveland – that could not be any more different. Hands down, he’s the best in the game right now.” – A. Sherrod Blakely 

Others receiving votes: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto (15 points); Mike Conley, Memphis (15); Paul Millsap, Atlanta (14); Hassan Whiteside, Miami (13); Isaiah Thomas, Boston (8); Gordon Hayward, Utah (7); Chris Bosh, Miami (3).