The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

Unless you managed to avoid newspapers, television, the
Internet, talk radio, or interaction with another human being in the Delaware
Valley this morning, you no doubt have already heard the Flyers lost 5-2 to the
New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

That’s nothing new of course, only this time the Bullies’
playoff chances are being pronounced dead at the scene – the proverbial final
nail driven into their coffin, and the first shovel full of dirt dumped on top
for good measure. Appropriately enough, the Wells Fargo Center sang the Orange
& Black out of the arena to a hymn of boos, while the dressing room was as
somber as a wake afterward.

Cause of death? We’ll have to wait awhile for the autopsy
results, but people closest to the victim are describing it as a lack of
effort.

That’s more or less what Wayne Simmonds had to say after the
game, claiming his mates haven’t put up a fight each and every time they’ve
stepped on to the ice this season. That echoes statements Kimmo Timonen has
been making for the last few weeks, and again after this most recent defeat,
suggesting reporters stick a microphone in each and every players’ face and ask
them why they aren’t ready to play.
Even captain Claude Giroux admitted the Flyers weren’t “ready.” [click here for
video of their post-game statements
]

But just who exactly are the offenders here?

Giroux has fallen far short of incredible expectations this
season, but who is watching him skate and thinking to themselves, “That dude
isn’t trying hard enough.”

No sane person would dare question the effort of a
consummate pro like Timonen, who enjoyed a lengthy celebration of his 1,000
games played in the NHL prior to puck drop on Tuesday.

It sure as hell wasn’t Simmonds, either, who took a puck to
the face early in the tilt only to return and score Philly’s first goal – one
that briefly felt like it might rally the troops.

Even general manager Paul Holmgren laid the blame almost
entirely at his players’ feet two weeks ago, saying he would like to see the
boys “compete better.”

Well, where are the slackers?

Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have parroted the same
lines, so obviously not among the ranks of leadership. Briere and Hartnell,
along with Matt Read and Andrej Meszaros, have all rushed back from injuries
this year, while guys like Nicklas Grossmann and Zac Rinaldo are clearly putting
their bodies on the line every night. Long-time veterans Simon Gagne, Max
Talbot, and Ruslan Fedotenko have hoisted the Stanley Cup, so they know what it
takes to compete at the highest level. Then there are young kids who have
everything in the world to prove, from Jakub Voracek and the Schenns whose spots
are somewhat solidified, to the Tye McGinns and Harry Zolnierczyks scraping for
every last second of ice time. Oh, and lest we forget that Ilya Bryzgalov NEVER
rests.

Get out of here with that stuff. Outsiders who would cast doubt
on an athlete’s effort has always been a pet peeve of mine, not because it’s
never true, but because typically it’s completely, 100% unsubstantiated. Only in
this instance it isn’t fans or members of the media making accusations by and
large, but instead seemingly anybody and everybody associated with the
organization.

It’s nothing more than an excuse, and not even a very good
one. The Flyers aren’t winning because the opponent is usually better, it’s
that simple.

The real question is whether or not that should be the case.
The Flyers as they are currently constituted have their share of flaws, but is
there any legitimate reason why with their talent they should be ranked 14th
out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference right now? Sorry, I have some trouble
seeing that.

This isn’t tee ball. Everybody trying their hardest is not a
solution.

Yes, going forward the front office must do a better job of equipping
this team with the pieces it needs to compete for a championship, whichever
parts you armchair GMs out there think are most important. That being said,
clearly there is a much bigger issue on Broad Street. Either these guys truly
are not working hard enough, or they are keeping quiet about the real problem.

Which is fine. Nobody can blame the locker room for sticking
together, in fact it may even be a good sign. Then again, maybe they simply don’t
have the answer – and that’s the scary part.

Earlier:
>> Priced to Move? Examining Flyers' Options as Trade Deadline Approaches
>> Peter Laviolette Is One of Flyers' Few Moving Parts


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Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

usa-james-franklin-penn-state.jpg
USA Today Images

Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

Penn State's wild comeback win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship was not enough.

The Nittany Lions were not selected to the four-team College Football Playoff, finishing fifth in the rankings.

Undefeated Alabama takes the top spot and will play No. 4 Washington. No. 2 Clemson will face No. 3 Ohio State.

Penn State earned its signature win of the season, handing felllow Big Ten member Ohio State its only loss of the season. 

However, Penn State sputtered in the beginning of the year, losing to unranked Pittsburgh and was thrashed by Michigan — who finished sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings — 49-10.

The Nittany Lions likely will play in the Rose Bowl, facing either USC or Colorado. The official announcement will be made later Sunday.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”