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.

Eagles bye week: Team soaring up national power rankings

Eagles bye week: Team soaring up national power rankings

After handling two inferior opponents in the Browns and Bears, the Eagles' Week 3 matchup with the Super Bowl-hopeful Steelers was viewed as a barometer to gauge just how good Carson Wentz and Co. really were.

Despite their 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers, no one came rushing to label the Eagles as the team to beat in the NFC nor as legitimate Super Bowl contenders less than a quarter of the way through the season, and understandably so. 

But as the Eagles go on their Week 4 bye, the national media has begun to buy stock in the Birds as a playoff team following their 3-0 start, a far cry from the bottom-five team many projected them to be in 2016.

Here's what they're saying about the Eagles during their bye week:

Power Rankings
Many in the national media expected the Eagles to flop in 2016, but since the start of the season the Birds have experienced a rapid rise in power rankings. 

ESPN: No. 7 

CBS Sports: No. 5 

FOX Sports: No. 5 

NFL.com: No. 6

USA Today:  No. 4

Carson Wentz for ... MVP?
Through the first three games of his NFL career Carson Wentz has been nothing short of stellar. The rookie quarterback has posted a 64.7 completion percentage, five touchdowns and a 103.8 passer rating, all while throwing zero interceptions. 

Is it safe to say Wentz is the early leader in the clubhouse for Offensive Rookie of the Year? Sure. How about for league MVP? It may sound crazy, but Jeff Dooley of The Washington Post would tab Wentz as the Most Valuable Player through three weeks for being the league’s best quarterback thus far.

"Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is off to the best three-game start that Pro Football Focus has ever recorded from a rookie QB in 11 seasons of grading players,” Dooley wrote. “His 90.5 grade (on a 0-100 scale) is not only better than the three-game starts of each of the star rookies from 2012’s renowned QB class (Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, all of whom led their teams to the playoffs in Year 1, and by season’s end ranked among PFF’s top 15 quarterback grades), but it is the top mark among all QBs so far for the 2016 NFL season.”

Show the defense some love too
Enough Carson Wentz talk, how about this Eagles defense?

Jim Schwartz’s unit paces the NFL in total points allowed (27), is third in total sacks (10), fourth in yards per game (274.3) and seventh in total turnovers (eight).

Under the tutelage of Schwartz this defense has come a very long way since last season, when opposing offenses torched the Eagles for an average of 26.9 points on 400-plus yards per game. 

According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, that improved defense is so important because it’s going to keep the Eagles alive in games when Wentz is having a rough outing.

"With Fletcher Cox making an early case for consideration behind Von Miller in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion, Brandon Graham in a defense better suited to his talents and a playmaking safety duo in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, the Eagles defense is soaring,” Patra wrote. “Through three games it's the prefect mesh of talent and scheme. If Wentz ever stumbles this season, the Eagles' D will be there to help prop up the rookie and get through a rough outing or three."

Playoffs?
The Eagles had the longest odds (plus-600) by a wide margin to come out of the NFC East before the season began. Now, they’re the favorites (2/1) to capture the division crown as they sit alone atop the NFC East.

There's still a lot of football left to be played, including all six division games, but the Birds simply reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013 with a rookie quarterback and first-year head coach would be an impressive feat. 

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated the Eagles' ceiling is even higher than just a division title and a playoff berth.

"It shouldn’t be happening this fast for the Eagles, coming up from 7-9 with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback from North Dakota State and a defense that needed a new leader," King wrote. "But it is, and there’s nothing fluky about it. The Eagles are legitimate deep-into-January contenders right now."

Flyers Notes: Michal Neuvirth starts big season; Travis Konecny with new chance

Flyers Notes: Michal Neuvirth starts big season; Travis Konecny with new chance

VOORHEES, N.J. — In many ways, Michal Neuvirth’s contract year officially gets underway Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
The Flyers’ goalie will make his preseason debut against the Bruins and head coach Dave Hakstol’s plan is to play Neuvirth the entire game.
 
The 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 season, as can his goalie partner Steve Mason. The two make up a formidable tandem and both are considered No. 1 goalies.
 
The outlook doesn’t change, though, for Neuvirth.
 
“Every season is big,” he said Saturday after taking the ice at Flyers Skate Zone. “It’s a good opportunity. I want to play my best hockey.
 
“Just going to focus on myself and try to prepare the best I can for the season right now.”
 
Neuvirth started his preparation by playing in the World Cup of Hockey for Czech Republic. His last game was Sept. 17 when he lost to loaded Canada, 6-0, still making an impressive 44 saves on 50 shots.
 
He’s now ready to get back between the pipes at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“Very excited,” Neuvirth said. “I haven’t played for a while and it was a good week for me in practice and finally get into a game.”
 
Entering his second season with the Flyers, Neuvirth is fresh off a career year in 2015-16, when he went 18-8-4 with personal bests in goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.924). He also shined in the postseason when he relieved Mason, going 2-1 against the top-seeded Capitals and stopping 103 of 105 shots.
 
Despite the internal competition, Neuvirth and Mason have always supported each other.
 
“It’s a great situation,” Neuvirth said. “Mase is a great guy, I love to be with him on the same team. Unfortunately only one guy can play. Like Mase said, we’re making each other better every day.”
 
Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek, all of whom played in the World Cup, will also make their preseason debuts.
 
Trying the left
Travis Konecny’s tryout at left wing starts tonight, as he’ll be centered by Sean Couturier with Jakub Voracek on the right, making up the Flyers’ second line.
 
Hakstol debuted the trio during Friday’s practice. It will now see its first game action.
 
“It’s exciting,” Konecny said. “They’re high-skilled, hard-working forwards, so it makes it easier for a guy like me to just keep things simple and just let the game take over and have fun.”
 
Left wing is Konecny’s greatest shot at making the Flyers’ roster. The Flyers are heavy at right wing, where if Konecny were to play, it would be on a bottom-six line. If he makes the roster, the Flyers likely want their prized prospect to play more than bottom-six minutes for developmental reasons.
 
“New spot for Travis in terms of playing on the left side, in our camp anyways,” Hakstol said. “He’s played there before. It’s his second day at left wing and he’ll get the opportunity there tonight.
 
“There’s an adjustment but good players make those adjustments.”
 
Konecny is happy to play left — whatever is asked of him.
 
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just the other side of the ice,” he said. “I’m sure I’ve found myself on the other side of the ice when I’m right wing before.
 
“I’m not too worried about it.”
 
Young pairing
Instead of pairing Ivan Provorov with a veteran blueliner, which has oftentimes been the case during preseason, Hakstol is putting him with fellow 19-year-old prospect Philippe Myers.
 
“Those two young guys have played a little bit together on the power play, they’ve paired up pretty well in practice and I think they’ll handle things well,” Hakstol said. “They’ve got pretty good chemistry between the two of them. I’m sure there will be some challenges, but they’ll be fine.”
 
Five to Phantoms
As expected, forwards Petr Straka, Andy Miele, Chris Conner and Greg Carey, as well as defenseman T.J. Brennan have cleared waivers and will join AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Flyers' roster now stands at 34, including injured Nick Schultz, Mark Alt and Cole Bardreau. It needs to be at 23 before the Oct. 14 season opener.
 
Schultz skates
Injured defenseman Schultz (knee) skated before practice Saturday. It was announced Wednesday he would miss four to seven days.
 
Projected lineup
F:
Brayden Schenn-Nick Cousins-Wayne Simmonds
 
Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
 
Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal-Dale Weise
 
Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov
 
D: Shayne Gostisbehere-Michael Del Zotto
 
Ivan Provorov-Philippe Myers
 
Travis Sanheim-Andrew MacDonald
 
G: Michal Neuvirth
 
Steve Mason