The Flyers might actually be decent

The Flyers might actually be decent

Overcoming nine losses in 12 games to start the season, ridiculous injuries and the albatross that is Andrej Meszaros’ part time work on defense, the Flyers have shown something that seemed utterly unbelievable in October:

They might actually be a somewhat decent team.

Since flopping out of the gate and firing coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers have slowly developed into a formidable foe in the Eastern Conference. And while being OK in the Metropolitan Division isn’t anything to be proud of, the Flyers’ recent 3-1-0 road trip against the Western Conference shows they have the ability to win in less than stellar circumstances.

Beginning the season with a 3-9-0 record, the Flyers were closer to a top-5 draft pick than a playoff spot. Since then, the team has gone 17-8-4 (7-2-1 in their last 10) and wiggled into playoff position, two points behind the Washington Capitals for second in the Metro.

And this isn’t a mirage, random spike in success or a feast on bad teams -- this is a two-month upswing against fairly decent competition. Over their last 29 games, the Flyers’ average competition managed a 19-17-4 record and 42 points, which would put them somewhere between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, two fringe playoff teams.

The major reason for the Flyers’ winning resurgence has been individual players waking up from their statistical slumbers in the last 25 games. In particular, Flyers center and offensive catalyst Claude Giroux has almost single-handedly brought the club’s offense up the NHL rankings with an insane burst.

Pointless through the first five games of the season, Giroux was without a goal for the opening 15 games. But once he got his first on Nov. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers, the rest of the team followed, and the club began to compete.

In the 25 games after scoring his first, Giroux has been all-world, posting 29 points (10g, 19a). He’s had nine multi-point games and gone scoreless just seven times during that span. He is currently scoring at a near 100-point pace since busting his slump.

It’s that production, and some fortunate line chemistry, that has unlocked the Flyers’ attack and turned them from a lottery team to a playoff contender.

Wayne Simmonds, once believed to be trade bait, has caught fire, scoring 22 points in his last 25 games. With a jumping deflection goal against the Avalanche on Thursday, Simmonds took the Flyers’ goal-scoring lead with 13 -- a remarkable feat considering he had just one tally through his first 18 games.

Jake Voracek also joined the production game. Like Simmonds, Voracek has added 22 points in his last 25 games. He had just five through his opening 16.

Scoring just two points in his first 12 games of the year, even Scott Hartnell has gotten into the act. Hartnell has 18 points in his last 25 games, despite being shifted all over the lineup.

But a surge in offense means nothing if the Flyers can't defend. That's where Steve Mason comes in. A guy everyone expected to fall flat on his face, Mason has handed the Flyers a .930 save percentage or above in 10 of his last 19 games.

And in using that combination, the Flyers have pushed past the .500 record mark and transformed from a poor team to a surprisingly decent one.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."

Clay Buchholz was introduced to his wife by Donald Trump, is big fan of 45

Clay Buchholz was introduced to his wife by Donald Trump, is big fan of 45

Philadelphia Phillies fans likely don't know a ton about one of the team's most recent pitching acquisitions, former Red Sox right-hander Clay Buccholz, but it turns out he has a unique connection to the 45th President of the United States of America.

It was Donald Trump who first introduced him to his now wife, Lindsay Clubine, at an after party of a UFC fight following a game out in California back in the late aughts.

The Boston Globe wrote about the encounter early last year.

“It was ‘Affliction: Banned’ fighting, and [Trump] owned the whole circuit," Buchholz told the Globe. "My wife knew him prior, from ‘Deal or No Deal’ when he came on the show as a celebrity banker."

“She was helping him host this event in Anaheim. So when we all walked in, he was there, and he saw us and he introduced Lindsey to me.”

Trump, of course, also has ties to a more formative New England athlete in Tom Brady who allegedly called Donald on Thursday to congratulate him on his coming inauguration. 

As for Buchholz opinion on Trump? He was a big supporter during the campaign and is a fan of the former " The Apprentice" host.

“He says what a lot of people think and don’t say,” Buchholz told the Globe. “I like that part of him."

Phillies fans tend to say what they think, so he'll probably be a fan of them as well, right?

Here are some shots of the couple from their social media accounts: