The Flyers had a pretty terrible weekend

The Flyers had a pretty terrible weekend

Heading into this past weekend’s double dose of games, the Philadelphia Flyers had won 10 of their last 13 overall and 10 straight home games in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center.

So, naturally, they laid total duds in both games and were left wondering why the bad, undisciplined Flyers from the beginning of the season suddenly reared their ugly heads again.

On Saturday afternoon in South Philly, the sloppy Flyers fell behind and then just couldn’t keep up with the Lightning in a 6-3 loss.

The turnovers came early and often and put the Flyers in a 2-0 hole Saturday afternoon. In fact, the Lightning’s first goal came after a brutal Nicklas Grossmann turnover on a pass attempt in the neutral zone that was basically right to a Lightning player and never even had a chance.

In the second period, the teams combined for seven goals and the Flyers tied the game at three at one point after a goal from Wayne Simmonds and two beautiful goals by Jake Voracek. Voracek’s second goal was especially pretty as he slithered between two Lightning defenders and slid the puck underneath Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.

But Tampa scored the last two of those seven second period goals, including a backbreaker by Marty St. Louis with 57 seconds left in the period, to take a 5-3 lead into the third and Philadelphia could never recover.

The fact is that the Flyers played well enough offensively to win on Saturday. They fired 38 shots on net. But Lindback stood on his head for his team when it needed him to and he made 35 saves.

It didn’t help that the Flyers basically played no defense the entire game. Steve Mason wasn’t his usual stellar self and was pulled in favor of Ray Emery to start the third period, but it’s not his fault when he has to face numerous odd-man rushes and opponents have clear, high-quality chances at almost every turn.

To make matters worse for the Flyers on Saturday, they played terribly in front of supermodel Kate Upton, who was in the crowd with maybe boyfriend and superstar pitcher Justin Verlander.

Verlander was in town to finalize his mega-deal with the Phillies. Scratch that, he’s under 35 and not in the tail end of his career.

Burn.

He was actually in town for abdominal surgery.

The Flyers had a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday evening with a quick trip up to Madison Square Garden and a meeting with the New York Rangers.

Redeem themselves they did not as the Rangers hopped out to a 3-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the game and smothered the Flyers into submission by a score of 4-1.

Mark Streit potted the only goal for Philadelphia but by the time he scored in the third period it was already way too late as New York was holding a four-goal lead.

Emery got the start and wasn’t terrible by any means – he had 34 saves on the night - but now he knows how Mason felt on Saturday afternoon. His teammates broke down way too often defensively in front of him and allowed the Rangers way too good looks at the net.

For example, on the Rangers’ second goal, what do you think happened when Rick Nash was left wide open at the circle? Yep, a wicked wrist shot was in the back of the net within a matter of seconds. Emery had no chance.

Henrik Lundqvist dominated the Flyers with 37 saves and kept them winless in their last seven games at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Rangers have outscored the Flyers 28-8 in that span. Yikes.

All tolled, what we saw this past weekend was the return of the October Flyers. Remember them? The no defense, turnover-prone, offensively challenged Flyers that couldn’t back up their goalie and had trouble skating without tripping over their own feet.

Hopefully it was nothing but an aberration.

Despite the lost weekend, good news could be on the way.

First and foremost, the Flyers next game is Tuesday night in Buffalo against the NHL’s version of an uncontrollable tire fire, the terrible Sabres.

Also, Tye McGinn was sent down to the Phantoms today. Read between the lines and that could very well mean Matt Read is ready to return after missing the last six games with a concussion.

Sorry, the pun in that last sentence was absolutely terrible.

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”