The Flyers basically own Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center

The Flyers basically own Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center

Looking for a great way to get under the skin of your most-hated rival and its fan base?

How about winning almost every game you’ve played in that hated-rival’s new hockey arena since it opened a few years ago.

Yeah, that’ll sting.

Well, if you look at a satellite image of downtown Pittsburgh, odds are you’ll see an orange and black flag sticking out of the top of CONSOL Energy Center because the Flyers have felt right at home there and have pretty much claimed ownership of the arena since it opened in October 2010.

After two Brayden Schenn goals and a marvelous 30-save Ray Emery performance paced the Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Penguins in the Steel City last night, Philadelphia now holds a 9-2-1 lifetime record at CONSOL Energy Center. That record includes three games played there during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Take that, Pittsburgh!

To refresh your memory and to gloat -- not going to lie, mostly to gloat -- here’s a quick recap of the dirty work the Flyers have done at CONSOL Energy Center to send Penguin fans home with sad faces.

Oct. 7, 2010 – Flyers 3 Penguins 2

The Penguins celebrated the first-ever regular season game at CONSOL Energy Center and the Flyers promptly ruined that celebration by handing the Penguins a 3-2 defeat. Mid-way through the second period, Danny Briere scored the first goal in the building’s history. Blair Betts and Claude Giroux also scored. Rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for the victory in his first NHL game.

Oct. 29, 2010 – Flyers 3 Penguins 2

In a game that featured Mike Richards and Matt Cooke dropping the gloves right after the opening faceoff, Giroux scored twice and Bobrovsky made 26 saves to give the Flyers their second win in as many trips to Pittsburgh’s new arena.

March 29, 2010 – Flyers 5 Penguins 2

Ville Leino, who is currently wasting away in that mess in Buffalo, scored twice and Giroux, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell all added goals as the Flyers steamrolled a Crosby-less and Malkin-less Penguins team. Brobrovsky again took home the win. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sensing a theme here.

Dec. 29, 2011 – Flyers 4 Penguins 2

This game featured Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot’s returns to the city where they began their respective careers and each poured salt into the wounds of Penguin fans with goals. Kimmo Timonen and Matt Read also scored for Philadelphia. Bobrovsky made 24 stops for another win in Pittsburgh.

April 1, 2012 – Flyers 6 Penguins 4

Jake Voracek scored twice to lead the Flyers to a victory. That was cool, but this game is most remembered for the Royal Rumble that broke out late in the game after Penguins’ forward Joe Vitale rocked Briere with a hard check at center ice. All kinds of shenanigans then ensued. Peter Laviolette tried to jump the benches and fight Penguins’ coach Dan Bylsma, Zac Rinaldo tried to take on the whole Penguins’ bench and Hartnell brought us the joy that is him trolling the fake Hulk Hogan Penguins fan - which is on the short list of greatest moments of my life. That, in turn, led to an in-arena playoff promo featuring the real Hulk Hogan supporting the Flyers – which also happens to be on the short list of greatest moments in my life.

April 11, 2012 – Flyers 4 Penguins 3 (OT) (Game 1 – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal)

Ah, the start of perhaps the most ridiculous playoff series any of us have ever seen. Philadelphia fell behind 3-0 but Briere – aka Mr. Playoffs – scored twice and Schenn knotted the game up in the third before Voracek stunned the Penguins with a quick overtime winner. It would be a precursor to the rest of the crazy series.

April 13, 2012 – Flyers 8 Penguins 5 (Game 2 – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal)

Again Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead and again Philadelphia fought back for the victory. Every time you blinked, it seemed like another goal was scored. But the Flyers scored the knockout blow. Giroux and 19-year-old rookie Sean Couturier both netted hat tricks in the win.

Feb. 20, 2013 – Flyers 6 Penguins 5

Another kooky Flyers/Penguins game in Pittsburgh that wound up in the Flyers’ favor. Again the Flyers fell behind the Penguins and again they fought back for the win. This game had everything. Crazy goals, fights, penalties, momentum changes and anything else you could have asked for. Voracek posted a hat trick, including the game-winner on a shot from behind the net that fooled Pens’ backup goalie Tomas Vokoun. It was the game of the year for the disappointing Flyers.

Nov. 13, 2013 – Flyers 2 Penguins 1

You should remember this game because, well, it happened last night. It wasn’t your typical exciting Flyers/Penguins game but it was a win so it worked. Schenn scored two huge goals and Emery helped calm a Penguins’ storm early on with his play in net to lead the Flyers to a win.

So, there you have it. Sure, there were three losses sprinkled in there, but the Flyers have basically owned the Penguins’ new barn and claimed it as their own.

All that’s missing is Mayor Nutter riding a white horse into the Steel City while wearing a Revolutionary War outfit and screaming, “I HEREBY PROCLAIM THIS LAND TERRITORY OF THE GREAT CITY OF PHILADELPHIA!”

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
 
Then he got just nine carries. 
 
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries. 
 
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews. 
 
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that's something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it's something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. 
But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
 
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks. 
 
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier. 
 
“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
 
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 
 
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. 
 
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore? 
 
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”