Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

What more can we ask from this series, from this game?!
The Flyers once again allowed an early—and we mean EARLY—lead, yet came back and won a see-saw game of pond hockey. Rookie Sean Couturier scored his first, second, and third career playoff goals, Claude Giroux added a hat trick of his own and set a new Flyers franchise record for points in a game. To make it all the more sweet, a pair of former Penguin playoff legends scored huge goals for the Flyers en route to an 8-5 Philadelphia win. 
Now up 2-0 in the series, the Flyers bring games 3 and 4 back to Philadelphia. They have never lost a series after being up 2-0. They're 17-0 after winning the first two games of a series. But don't think the Penguins are afraid of stats and trends. 
More in a below on one of the most entertaining games of hockey we've ever seen, won by one of the most likable groups of Flyers...
If anyone was worried about the Flyers' chances of winning the game after Sidney Crosby scored 15 seconds into the game, they probably haven't seen much Flyers hockey this season. Kulp broke down the degree to which that was just par for the course in this matchup for the season and so far in the playoffs, and it didn't stop there. After letting up three Penguins goals in the first period of game 1, they did it again in game 2. This time the Flyers at least managed a first period goal of their own, but just as they did in the series opener, they let up a Pens tally in the final minute of the frame. 
That kind of thing is so often a back-breaker. Not with this Flyers team. 
It's obviously still not ideal, but in the context of the complete game, it's not at all troubling either. The Flyers were outscored by only one team in the NHL this season—the Penguins. In these two games, we've seen what happens when the league's elite offense square off. It's not a matter of starting quickly the way it is in a game where teams are more prone to lock down and control tempo defensively. This is a battle of endurance, longevity, and depth from forwards to defense. 
And so far, the Flyers are winning it at every level. Outscoring a team that boasts a pair of Hart Trophy winners and NHL leading scorers? That's saying something. 
We're not going to get into a play-by-play breakdown of this one. There were so many goals it'd be pointless. Here's a look at the key elements in brief. 
LAVVY UPThe game got off to a frenzied start. The Flyers had their chances, but were outplayed; the Penguins took every opportunity to finish checks, and made the most of their opportunities. Peter Laviolette was PISSED at the intermission (photos and video of that here), and whatever he said once again helped turn things around. In the second period, the Flyers reversed the scoring trend, winning the frame by a 3-1 count and sending the game into the third tied. 
IT WAS ALL A DREAM...Sean Couturier has been tasked in this series with muting the other team's top scoring line. Juicy may be just 19 years old, but Peter Laviolette has trusted him from the beginning. He's played some important shifts since the beginning, and down the stretch, given even greater responsibilities. So far, he's not only kept Evgeni Malkin from lighting the lamp, he's also scored three goals of his own and assisted on another. Plus/Minus can be a misleading stat, but it's telling that Malkin was a MINUS FOUR in the game. 

MVP-NESS... AND FLYERS HISTORYCouturier wasn't the only Flyer with a hat trick... Giroux's empty netter to ice the game was his third marker of the night, the first two coming on opposite ends of the special teams battle.   Along with Couturier, the Flyers' French Connection was in full effect. Giroux assisted on a Max Talbot short-handed goal in the first period, then scored a shorty of his own in the second, this time assisted by Talbot. 
While it was great to see the Flyers win game 1 with G kept quiet, the Flyers were going to need his offense to win this series. He certainly came alive in this one. The Flyers rarely miss the playoffs, and they've had a number of outstanding scorers. On Friday night, Giroux took his place as the most prolific in a single night, setting a new record for points in a playoff game with six. Reggie Leach, Bob Dailey, and Mark Recchi each posted five. 
Flyers PR relays that Couturier's four-point night is the most for a Philly rookie in the playoffs since Peter Zezel did it on April 13, 1985, exactly 27 years ago. 
The Flyers have never had two hat tricks in a playoff game, which isn't surprising because it's f*cking amazing. 
SALT IN THE WOUNDIn addition to Talbot scoring once and assisting a Giroux shorty, he was a plus-5. Meanwhile, Jagr scored what would prove to be the game-winner when he spun around a defender and used his size to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. He must know how it feels when Flyers fans boo Crosby only to have him score huge goals in our building. Of course, Crosby never won us a Cup.
PEACHES AND BRYZGALIADon't let the goals against/shots on goal (5/28) numbers fool you. Ilya Bryzgalov was a monster for the Flyers in net. His glove was amazing, and he absolutely outplayed Fleury. 
Watch this. 
THE HOCKEY GODS ARE WATCHINGThe Pens may have scored two of their goals on the power play, but karma bit them as well. We saw that in the form of two shorties, but also a diving call on Kris Letang for acting like he'd eaten an explosive when given a little love tap. No penalties were called in the third period after the refs apparently decided to put their whistles away. 
That's about all we have energy for tonight, though there was plenty more action in the game. No recap will do that one justice, and we can't wait to see what these teams have for us on Sunday. 

Flyers-Coyotes 5 things: Decent chance for first winning streak

Flyers-Coyotes 5 things: Decent chance for first winning streak

Flyers vs. Coyotes
7 p.m. on CSN
Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers (3-3-1) on Thursday night have an optimal opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they host the nosediving Coyotes (1-5-0) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s get you ready for the game with five things to know.

1. Nothin' but a G thang
For any of those worried about Claude Giroux, don’t be.

For one, Giroux may be the only player that would receive more flack for not having scored a goal yet than be applauded for leading the NHL in assists (eight).

Secondly, you may recall 2013-14 when the Flyers’ captain started the season goalless through 15 games, with just seven assists and a minus-11 rating. Giroux finished that season with a career-high-tying 28 goals and the league’s third-most points at 86.

More so than the puck being put in the net, the Flyers needed greater playmaking after last season. Giroux is providing that — as is Jakub Voracek — and, as a result, the goals are coming for the Flyers, at both even strength and on the power play. 

2. Stick with the switches?
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol made a few changes before the team’s 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Sabres on Tuesday.

Veteran defenseman Nick Schultz was healthy-scratched to make room for blueliner Radko Gudas, returning from a six-game suspension to the start the season. Gudas finished with seven shot attempts and three hits in 18:27.

“Overall, what you want to see is go out and play an efficient game,” Hakstol said. “For the most part, I thought [Gudas] went out and did that.”

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who has had bad moments, stayed in the lineup for his versatility.

“He is just a guy that is reliable, who moves the puck well,” Hakstol said, “and we feel he can play in any situation whether it is OT or regulation.”

A greater change came to the team’s top line. Flyers leading goal scorer Matt Read leapfrogged to the first line from the third as Brayden Schenn dropped to Read’s previous spot. Without a point in his first three games, Schenn recorded a goal and an assist as he finds his rhythm returning from a three-game ban.

“The timing and pace of his game [are starting] to get back to where it needs to be,” Hakstol said. 

3. Oh, 'Yotes
Once they beat the visiting Flyers, 4-3, in overtime in their season opener, the Coyotes hit the road for what has turned out to be a nightmarish six-game trip.

Since the victory over the orange and black, Arizona has lost five straight by a combined score of 23-13, a losing skid that started with the team’s No. 1 goalie Mike Smith being knocked out with a lower-body injury. As a result, the Coyotes are permitting an NHL-most 4.33 markers per game and own the league’s worst goal differential at minus-9.

Backup netminder Louis Domingue, who will start against the Flyers, has struggled mightily in place of Smith, going 0-4-0 in four games with a 5.03 goals-against average and .851 save percentage.

Through seven games, the Flyers have just one goal in the first period. They should jump on Arizona, which has yielded eight tallies in the opening stanza, tied for most in hockey.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Center Sean Couturier has been a bit quiet over his last four games with just one assist for one point after scoring three goals in his first three games. He’ll get going again playing alongside Travis Konecny and Voracek, a duo that has combined for 14 points.

Coyotes: Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is coming off a two-goal output last time out to give him four goals on the season. He plays a ton (26:17 TOI, tied for fourth highest in the NHL) and is a career plus-7 against the Flyers with four goals and an assist.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 5-9-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .899 save percentage in 15 career games against the Coyotes.

• Arizona goalie Domingue has faced the Flyers just once, allowing four goals on 33 shots in a loss last season.

• Konecny has six points (one goal, five assists), tied for third among NHL rookies.

• The Flyers own the league’s fifth-best power play at 26.9 percent.

• The Flyers will welcome back 14 members of their Hall of Fame — along with family of six other members — for Flyers Heritage Night, featuring a pregame ceremony.

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured


852 days after Joel Embiid was drafted -- a number becoming as familiar to Sixer fans as any Cubs fan could tell you how many years it's been since their last World Series -- he actually played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. He lives. He exists. He has a Basketball-Reference stat line. It looks like this: 

The feeling of triumph was tangible at the not-Wells Fargo Center well before it became clear that the Sixers might actually have a shot at beating the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Embiid's every move was treated with breathless anticipation and rapturous cheering, as well it should have been. Even Dario Saric got his name chanted at him in the first quarter, during his very first regular-season trip to the free-throw line. It was less a basketball game than a Bar Mitzvah, celebrating that these two guys we'd waited a combined four years for were at last becoming full-grown Sixers before our very eyes. It couldn't have mattered much less whether or not we won the game. 

That said, hey, we almost won the game! The Sixers led most of the way, including by six fairly deep into the fourth quarter. If not for the Internet-pandering greatness of Russell Westbrook -- 32-12-9 on good shooting, including a handful of tough pull-ups to make the difference late -- the Sixers might've won their first home opener since Process Genesis three years ago. It didn't happen, and a couple highly flustered 76ers possessions late in this one would probably make this loss pretty frustrating if it happened in February, which it probably still will. Last night? W/e. Let's watch those Embiid highlights again. 

And oh, were they high. It was a night that I imagine will soon become typical for our Jojo: He didn't have a great game, and he was still amazing. 6-16 from the floor with four turnovers and 0 assists is hardly the most efficient night Joel will have for us; a couple times he tried to do way too much in the half-court, and it would've been embarrassing if how much fun he was having even in his screw-ups wasn't so inspiring. He didn't know what spots to run to in transition, he was a non-factor on the boards late, and he probably needs to cool it with his coast-to-coast experiments for a little bit. (Actually, what am I saying? Do You forever, Joel, just watch for those tiny dudes sneaking into your blind spot.) 

But he did get to the line for eight FTs (including two on a rip-through move that most ten-year pros can't successfully execute) and made seven of 'em, he did grab nearly every rebound in sight in the first quarter (even though he only ended with seven for the game), he did get an early swat on Russ (and deterred countless other shots), and yes, he did hit his first-ever three-pointer (and even sent the not-WFC crowd into a frenzy with a couple he missed). Even on an off night, where Thunder big men Enes Kanter and Steven Adams — who my mother now hates — got the best of him on multiple occasions, and he radiated a total lack of NBA experience, he still scored 20 points in 22 minutes and kept us in a game we had no right being anywhere near. He is going to be DOMINANT. And soon. So soon.

Technically there were also ten other Sixers who took the court for us last night, so it's probably worth humoring a couple of their contributions as well. For all the shit that I gave him about cruising through the preseason, I thought Robert Covington was awesome last night — super-active on defense, making good decisions on offense, and hitting a couple huge three-pointers. Jerami Grant was similarly impressive, causing his typical chaos under the basket on both ends and even hitting a couple jumpers; probably shouldn't get super-used to that. And even though Gerald Henderson's night was most memorable for him bricking a three and coughing up the ball in critical late possessions, he also set the evening off with a gorgeous alley-oop slam, and played tough perimeter defense — the kind we just haven't had available to unleash on opposing point guards the last few years — on Westbrook, even if he was ultimately undone by Russ's sorcery.

Special kudos to a couple of our backcourt guys, though: In his first regular-season start for the 76ers — and his first regular-season start for any NBA team in seven seasons — Sergio Rodriguez was exactly what we needed: He attracted the Thunder trap but was able to easily navigate out of it, getting good looks and driving lanes for our perimeter guys, and he hit open shots when passed out to himself. He finished with 12 points, nine assists, and no turnovers, just what we'd hope for from our imported point guard. And Nik Stauskas packed a little extra heat for the bloggers who called for his dismissal all summer (as well as some of the fans that booed him — booed him! — last night), attacking the basket like his roster spot depended on it, finishing with an eye-catching 13 on 5-6 shooting. (I never stopped believing in you, Sauce.) (Well, maybe I sorta did, but at least I was rooting for you to make the team, if partly for selfish reasons.) 

On the other hand, it was something of a rough night for Dario Saric. He did fight for seven rebounds, and should laudable toughness on both sides of the ball, but the looks just weren't falling for Our Friend Dario last night — just 2-12, and some of the misses were brutal — and he was late on a couple rotations that led to open Thunder jumpers (Thumpers?) early. And despite showing his advanced touch early with three consecutive scores, Jahlil Okafor ran out of gas pretty quickly in this one, ending with just eight points on 4-10 shooting (with three TOs), and stood virtually no chance against the Thunder on the boards and in the pick-and-roll. Better nights to come for both. 

In the end, though, only one thing really mattered for the Sixers and the 20,000 fans — about 10,000 of them clad in Sixers jerseys, and mostly non-Iverson ones! — at the Center last night, and that's Joel Embiid, our beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy, officially becoming a player of record in the NBA. When a full stadium of Philly Phaithful chants "TRUST-THE-PRO-CESS!" while JoJo cackles from the free-throw line line, it means Our Once and Always Dark Lord's work is finally done. Hinkie died for our sins. Embiid is risen. 

Look at how much fun this season is already, with Simmons still in street clothes and Nerlens still Netflix-binging in Alabama with his phone in the other room. What's left to trust, anyway?