The Flyers and their third period woes

The Flyers and their third period woes

If any of you out there were able stay awake for the entirety of what NBCSN analyst Mike Mulbury reportedly called “one of the top five worst hockey games he’s ever seen,” you saw the continuation of a trend that has helped drag the Flyers down near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

Sure, there are plenty of negative trends attached to the Flyers right now – lack of offense, goonery and culture questions, just to name a few. But the one I’m referring to is just how badly the Orange and Black have been outplayed in the third period this season.

It came back to bite them again Tuesday night in Carolina.

After 56 minutes, 2 seconds of the NHL version of Nyquil, the Flyers finally opened the scoring on a power-play goal (!) by Scott Hartnell (!) and took a 1-0 lead over the Hurricanes. But the Hurricanes struck back with just under a minutes left and their netminder pulled as Jordan Staal redirected a pass past Flyers’ goalie Steve Mason to knot the game.

The Flyers then committed a brutal turnover in overtime that sprung Carolina’s Manny Malholtra on a breakaway and he proceeded to beat Mason with a backhander for the 2-1 Carolina victory.

For those that have followed the Flyers this season, last night’s result should have come as no surprise. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that it could have been expected.

Through 14 games played on the season, the Flyers have been outscored 16-6 in the third period. Those 16 goals scored against are seventh-most in the league and those six goals scored are tied with New Jersey for fewest in the league. All tolled, the Flyers minus-10 third-period goal differential is the worst in the NHL.

There have been four times this season where the Flyers either held a lead or were tied heading into the third period and gave up multiple goals in the period and overtime to lose a game (Oct. 2 vs. Toronto, Oct. 15 vs. Vancouver, Oct. 29 vs. Anaheim and Tuesday night at Carolina).

To further accentuate the Flyers’ struggles in the final stanza, there have been three games where the Flyers trailed by just a single goal heading into the third period with a real chance to still tie or win the game only to give up multiple goals in the third and lose (Oct. 5 at Montreal, Oct 12. at Detroit and Oct. 17 vs. Pittsburgh).

Tuesday’s disappointment in Raleigh, N.C. was the only time Philadelphia managed to extend the game into overtime and gain a point in the standings.

Chew on that for a moment.

A case can be made that the Flyers have had a legitimate chance to earn 14 points in those seven games mentioned above and came out with just one of those 14 points. And that one point came Tuesday at PNC Arena.

That’s 13 points that Flyers have had a legitimate shot at earning that they’ve left just sitting there at the proverbial table through just 14 games this season. Did I expect the Flyers to earn all of those 13 points even if they were playing well? Not at all. But they most definitely should have earned more than just one of those 13 points.

Third-period letdowns happen over the course of an 82-game season. I get that.

But why are they struggling so badly in the third period so often so early in the season?

There are a few reasons.

First, foremost and most glaring is the lack of offense. Six goals in 14 third periods is good for just .43 goals per third period. .43 goals per any period isn’t going to cut it, let alone in the most important period of the game. Good teams will tighten up their defense, especially in the neutral zone, and clog up any open space when they have a lead. For as bad as the Flyers’ offense is at even gaining the offensive zone, that’s basically a death sentence.

For whatever reason, the Flyers have gone into a defensive shell at times in the third period when they’ve had a lead. They take their collective foot off the pedal and sit on whatever the score is whether they try to or not. For example, the Flyers were outshot 16-6 in the third period of the loss to Anaheim and 16-7 in the third period and overtime of last night’s loss at Carolina. Though it worked against the New York Rangers, the success rate of that option isn’t high.

The defensive shell is not the best idea considering this team’s strong point isn’t, you know, defense. To prove that point, one the team’s supposed top defenders, 24-year-old Luke Schenn, has been a healthy scratch the last two games.

It puts unfair pressure on Mason, who has done everything in his power to keep the Flyers in some of these games. For as spectacular as he’s been, he can’t stop everything.

Turnovers are another huge reason the Flyers have struggled in the final period and overtime. The Flyers are in the top 10 in the league with 123 giveaways on the season. But they seem to come at the most in opportune times. In the Pittsburgh game, Braydon Coburn threw a blind pass out in front of his own net, which hung Mason out to dry and led to a Sidney Crosby goal to give the Pens a 3-1 lead with just under 3 minutes to go. Mark Streit’s gaffe last night in overtime was inexplicable.  Those are just two examples.

Is it any coincidence the Flyers didn’t turn the puck over in third period – and the entire game, for that matter – last Saturday in New Jersey and held on for a 1-0 win?

The last main reason is attention to detail on the defensive end. So many times this season have the Flyers broken down defensively in the third period to allow other teams to score huge, momentum-shifting goals.

Against Vancouver, Flyers’ defenders focused on the puck carrier behind the cage and left Chris Higgins wide open in front of the net for the slam dunk to tie the game. Against Anaheim, two Flyers went to one Duck created a mini 2-on-1 for Anaheim where Kyle Palmieri cashed in for the game-winner. And then there was Claude Giroux leaving Carolina’s younger Staal in front of the net and allowing Staal to tip the puck past Mason to tie the game on Tuesday night.

The Flyers obviously need to start scoring goals. But unless they start tightening up and playing an all-around game in the third period, scoring goals won’t matter all that much.

Someone please give Mason a hug or bake him some cupcakes or something.

LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

053016-quarterman2-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_695579203893.jpg

LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

By now, Tim Quarterman is used to being asked about Ben Simmons.

The former LSU point guard declared for the NBA draft following his junior season and enter the same draft in which Simmons, the freshman phenom, is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick.

As Quarterman goes through his own pre-draft process, it's inevitable he'll have to field questions about his former teammate he calls “his little brother” along the way.

“He’s a great passer, he can handle the ball and he’s always there to cheer you on,” Quarterman said Monday following a workout with the Sixers on Monday. “He likes for other people to accomplish great accomplishments. He’s a great teammate.”

Simmons came under criticism during his freshman year for “quitting” on the Tigers. The team went 19-14 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They also chose not to participate in any other postseason tournaments. Even though Simmons averaged a team-high 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, there was question over his effort.

Quarterman said that wasn’t the case.

"Ben is a great person, a great player and he's a great competitor, so I don't think throughout the season he ever quit on us," Quarterman said. “I think he continued to play hard. I think us losing frustrated a lot of  us as competitors because we always wanted to win.”

The Sixers have an edge evaluating Simmons. While he grew up thousands of miles from Philadelphia in Australia, it just so happens Brett Brown coached Simmons' father David during his extensive coaching career in Australia. Not only does Brown know Simmons’ family, he still is closely connected to those involved in his basketball career.

“I know the people that have worked with him all across the board,” Brown said. “That’s just one of the benefits of living in the country and 20 minutes from where he grew up for 17 years, short of my Sydney days where it makes it 12 years.”

Of course Quarterman didn't work out with the Sixers just to speak on Simmons. He is also fighting for a place in the NBA as well.

"Tim did a very good job creating for others," Brandon Williams, Sixers vice president of basketball administration, said. "What I'm impressed by is he's such a nuisance defensively, his length and athleticism. Then he showed his ability to create off the bounce."

Jordan Matthews Q&A: Doug vs. Chip; playing outside; Carson Wentz's savvy

usa-jordan-matthews.jpg
USA Today Images

Jordan Matthews Q&A: Doug vs. Chip; playing outside; Carson Wentz's savvy

Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews stopped by the Quick Slants set last week and addressed a number of topics with hosts Derrick Gunn and Reuben Frank.

Matthews, entering his third NFL season, has 152 receptions for 1,869 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

That’s the 10th-most catches, 34th-most yards and 15th-most touchdowns in NFL history by a player in his first two seasons.

Now, he has a new receivers coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new head coach and at some point soon a new quarterback.

Matthews spoke about all of the changes the Eagles have made, his disappointment in his early-season drops last year, his expectations for this year and much more during his visit to the Comcast SportsNet studios.

Here are some highlights from that interview:

Quick Slants: What’s it been like these first few months under new head coach Doug Pederson?

Jordan Matthews: “The family atmosphere has definitely been there. Having a coach that’s played here, he understands what it’s like to be in these shoes, play in the city of Philadelphia and have these high expectations. He’s put us in a great environment these first few weeks.”

QS: What’s been your initial reaction to Doug’s offense and how you’ll be used?

Matthews: “It’s definitely very versatile. We have a lot of situations where guys get to move around a lot more in the previous offense I played in, so that’s something that a lot of us have been excited about. Me in particular, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to go outside as much as inside, so now teams won’t be able to game plan for me in just one area. It’s been great learning it. The verbiage is definitely different. It’s not one word or signs or anything like that. We’re going in the huddle and I mean Sam’s spitting out the whole encyclopedia. But guys are getting it down, guys are learning. We’re having fun with it.”

QS: How tough was it to work through the drops early in the 2015 season?

Matthews: “It’s always frustrating because sometimes you think that, OK, just because you’re putting in all these hours that the immediate results are going to come right then, but that’s the thing about work: It’s not just going in and putting in the hours, but you also have to have faith in what you’re actually doing. Sometimes you’re not going to see those immediate results, sometimes you just have to take time and you just have to be patient with it. But I just know the expectations that I have on myself ... outside expectations I know they’re always big here, but I’m always going to be my hardest critic. So whatever people thought I might have been going through, trust me, I was beating myself up more about it than anybody was. I knew that I wasn’t playing up to my expectations but at the same time I knew I had to get through it, so I was glad I was able to finish the season the way I did but also know that type of play isn’t acceptable for me or for my teammates. That’s why going into these OTAs, I’ve been really big on the details for me and the rest of my receiving group. Getting on the JUGS machine, putting in extra time in the film room, making sure that we know everything we have to do on the field. So now that we know all the X's and O's, all we can focus on then is going out there and making plays and playing fast.”

QS: Can you compare Doug Pederson and Chip Kelly?

Matthews: “It’s crazy. Growing up in Alabama, you’re around a bunch of the country, family guys and that’s definitely Doug. But I also spent some time at Vanderbilt with the smart guys and that’s Chip, so I’ve basically had a Doug Pederson and a Chip Kelly in my lifetime just from my years of playing football. I know people like to compare and do all that kind of stuff, but it’s apples and oranges. Chip, when I was playing for him, he was a new head coach, and now it’s the same way with Doug and he’s going to do some things different than maybe what people (have) seen in the past. But I’ve had great experiences with both of them. I feel like I’m extremely lucky I’ve had the opportunity to work with both these guys.

QS: You’re as close to Sam Bradford as anybody on the team. What do you think of the way he handled the offseason?

Matthews: “Sometimes those situations can be blown up a little bit, especially when it’s the quarterback position because that is looked at as the leader on the field, so Sam understands that responsibility, and Sam understands that when it’s time to ball you’ve got to come out there and you’ve got to be the leader. He took his time that he needed, but at the same time he knew it was time to get back and get to work. Obviously, nobody is going to be thrilled when somebody gets drafted at their position, especially at the No. 2 pick. But it is a business, it is a lot more than just guys going out there and throwing the football around, it is about competition. And I think that’s the best thing that’s going to come out of this: It’s going to really fuel competition. Between Sam, Chase (Daniel) and Carson (Wentz) going out there and taking reps, it’s a good ball coming out there every single time. So if you come to our practices, you’ll see me running with the 1’s, the 2’s and the 3’s and I feel like that’s the best thing about it. Because that competition is really what’s going to help us push forward. Now guys can’t get complacent. You can’t think, ‘Oh, OK, I’ve made it, I’ve arrived.’ No. Every position, we’re bringing in guys that are going to go and compete for your spot. I’m loving it. From quarterback all the way down to long snapper.”

QS: Doug has said all along that Sam is the quarterback going into the season, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich said on WIP that there is open competition everywhere, including the quarterback position. It seems like the coach and offensive coordinator are sending out different messages.

Matthews: “There are different philosophies always going to come from different people. Obviously, Coach Pederson’s the head coach and he’s the captain of the ship, so we’ve got to go with him. I like coach Frank’s attitude, everybody’s got to go out and compete. It’s extremely early, so if anything, I side with both of then. Yes, it’s Sam Bradford’s team. He has to come out and he has to be the leader that we need. He has to run the offense, and we’re all looking at him to make sure he’s the quarterback who can take us where we want to go. But at the same time, you’ve got to come in every single day that somebody’s coming for your spot and you’ve got to go work for it.”

QS: What are your early impressions of Carson Wentz?

Matthews: “When I had my first time watching film with him, the type of shots he was talking about making ... he was like, ‘Hey, if this cornerback turns his head, I might try to throw this one deep,’ and I’m like, ‘Bro, I do not think that’s where the ball’s supposed to be going.’ But ... at the same time, I like it, because you can tell he plays the edge. You can tell he has that chip. You can tell he’s a guy who wants to take risks. I think one of the biggest attributes a quarterback can have that people overlook is savvy. The great ones, the Aaron Rodgerses of the world, the Tom Bradys, the Peyton Mannings, the Brett Favres, those legends, they’re great with the X’s and O’s but they have savvy. They’re not always going to go by the book. Sometimes, they’re just going to go make a play. Sometimes they’re going to say, ‘Hey, you’re my man right here, I’m coming to you, get open, I’m going to find you on the deep ball. And the way Carson was speaking, you can tell he wants to grow into that person and be that kind of quarterback. And then also he’s just a fun guy to be around. He and I were running routes just me and him one afternoon and then he was like, ‘Hey, I want to get some conditioning in.’ And Carson wanted to run routes. He was calling plays, he’s running corners and posts and I’m throwing to him. Everybody sees that serious side to him but he just loves the game. He wants to just be out there on the field, he wants to get to know guys, he also wants to take risks and I feel like he’s going to be really big for us going into the future.”

Rick MacLeish's Flyers teammates react to his passing

ap-rick-macleish.jpg
Associated Press

Rick MacLeish's Flyers teammates react to his passing

PITTSBURGH -- Former Flyers captain and Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Clarke was Rick MacLeish’s teammate for 12 years and two Stanley Cups.
 
“Ricky was the most talented player the Flyers had during the 1970s,” said a saddened Clarke on Tuesday, after the announcement of MacLeish’s death at 66 late on Memorial Day (see story).
 
“Life after hockey wasn’t fair to Ricky. He left us far too soon.”
 
The center from Lindsay, Ontario, had been hospitalized in Philadelphia since mid-May while suffering from multiple medical issues, according to his daughter Brianna.
 
Here’s what other teammates had to say:
 
“Ricky was a special player for the Flyers,” said Bill Barber. “He always came up with scoring the big goals and he was instrumental helping us win two Stanley Cups. He will be greatly missed.”
 
Gary Dornhoefer was MacLeish's linemate with Ross Lonsberry for almost six seasons.
 
“I’ll tell you what, he was probably the fastest player on the ice,” Dornhoefer said. “As far as a wrist shot is concerned, there was no one better at getting that shot away and accurate. Ross and I would talk and say ‘let’s just give Ricky the puck and he’ll put it in.’
 
“If you look at the amount of goals he scored [328 as a Flyer], well, that’s why we kept giving him the puck. Ross and I had cement hands, so we’d pass the puck to him. The Flyers could have a mediocre game, but because of his skills as a player and the athlete that he was, he could carry us.
 
“He was that gifted. I always felt that during the years he played, he never got the recognition that he properly deserved. He was that good. It saddens me that he was such a young man and is no longer with us. That really hurts.”
 
Bob “The Hound” Kelly agreed.
 
“Rick was probably the most gifted, natural centerman that the Flyers have ever had,” Kelly said. “He was a tough kid who skated and worked hard.
 
“Although he played in the shadow of Clarkie, he was every bit as good as Clarkie. Clarkie was more of a natural leader where Rick was just quiet and simply went out there and played his heart out. He was a great guy and it is very sad that we had to lose him at such an early age.”
 
Joe Watson made a few comparisons.
 
“I’d put him up there with [Claude] Giroux, [Eric] Lindros and [Peter] Forsberg in terms of natural skill,” Watson said. “He was a great player and we’ll certainly miss him.”