Voracek and Couturier Shine as Flyers Top Blue Jackets in Jeff Carter Bowl, 9-2

Voracek and Couturier Shine as Flyers Top Blue Jackets in Jeff Carter Bowl, 9-2

The talk heading into Saturday night's matchup between the Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets naturally focused on the big off-season trade that sent Jeff Carter to Ohio in exchange for winger Jakub Voracek and a pair of draft picks, one of which was the eighth overall. Sean Couturier was selected with that high pick, and he made the club out of training camp. Voracek was off to a quiet start heading into the game, which Jeff Carter would watch from a suite, still recovering from a broken foot.

Trades aren't won and lost based solely on what each set of players does for their new team, and they especially aren't won based on a single head-to-head matchup. But damn if this didn't at least feel like a statement game as to which side is currently holding the better cards. Voracek, who was criticized by his former coach upon his exit from Columbus, took advantage of the opportunity to not only prove Scott Arniel wrong, but also put a few nails in his coffin. With the Blue Jackets now 2-11-1 after being throttled 9-2 by the Flyers, Arniel might not make it out of the Wells Fargo Center with a job.

Voracek was joined in the scoring by Couturier and a full six other Flyers. Fifteen Philadelphia players would register points in this summary ass kicking.

Below, a look at what went so right for the Flyers, complete with video highlights. So much awesome...

JVRtwork
The home team got off to a fast start, scoring a pair of goals before the 3:10 mark, then added three more to enter the intermission up 5-0. The game had gotten off to a staccato start, with a near goal by Scott Hartnell and three whistles in the first minute of play. Both teams were down a man when James van Riemsdyk, subject of a reported—and emphatically disputed—benching earlier in the week, opened the scoring. The Flyers cycled well with the puck, using the space opened up with two men off the ice, and rookie Erik Gustafsson found JVR with a sneaky pass.

JVR commented after the game that whatever lower-body injury is affecting him is something he'll have to deal with for awhile. The mystery continues, but after watching him play 13:30, scoring a goal and assisting two others, I don't remember seeing it affecting him.

SO CYUT
After the opening goal, Columbus was clearly reeling, and they took another penalty. With the Flyers on the powerplay, Hartnell camped out in front of the net, and Jaromir Jagr threw a pass toward his feet. It didn't make it through to Hartnell, but it did still find the net, as it deflected off of Fedor Tyutin's stick and past a hapless Steve Mason.

MAXIMUS
Max Talbot claimed the Flyers third goal, scoring on a sweet exchange with Voracek. With both forwards coming into the zone hot, Talbot found Voracek with a pass across the slot, and Jake returned the favor with a perfect pass through the defense. Notching his fifth of the season and fourth in five games, Talbot put a nice move on Mason, and temporarily ended the goalie's night.

JAGRESSIVE
The Flyers' fourth goal of the first period came on the strength of some great forechecking by Jagr, who again made Tyutin his bitch, stealing the puck away from him in the corner before throwing it to an open Claude Giroux. G made a fast turn toward the net and put a laser past Allen York.

FIGHTS!
With no legal answer at either end of the ice, the Blue Jackets tried to swing the momentum by dropping the gloves. Derek Dorsett was picking at JVR, and on his next shift, Wayne Simmonds answered the call and gave Dorsett a pretty good beat. A moment later, Cody Bass asked Zac Rinaldo for a go, and the two battled briefly before Bass slammed a half-nekkid Rinaldo to the ice and skated around like he'd just taken down George Foreman.

VORACEK'S REVENGE
Once everyone had their clothes back on, the Flyers put out any fire the Blue Jackets thought they'd ignited with the pair of fights, with Voracek scoring their fifth goal of the period. He sent a floater on goal from the point and it snuck by a screening Eric Wellwood.

Had to feel good to light the lamp and put another nail in the coffin of the coach who had some unflattering words for him after last season. I for one would like to thank Scott Arniel for any fire he may have lit under Voracek's ass. Especially if what we saw tonight ends up being exactly what the Czech winger needed to get going this season.

COOTER TOO
The second period was much like the first, only without quite as much scoring. Couturier scored the Flyers' 6th goal of the night 7 minutes into the frame. Skating up the right circle on a 3-on-1—during a penalty kill—Cooter unselfishly fed the puck back to the trailer Braydon Coburn, who one-touched it right back for the rookie to deposit one past Mason, who had returned for the second period. Amazing finish by Couturier, who had very little angle but played the puck perfectly.

POOR CARTER...
Voracek to end the first, Couturier to start the second… annnnd pan to Carter in a smart suit up in the suite. I don't wish Carter anything but the best, and it was honestly a little painful to see him sitting there watching this. He truly was traded out of a hockey haven to a terrible franchise that could finish with the league's worst record this year. Only a decade left on that deal, too.  

RAPID SUCCESSION
Simmonds joined the scoring party on a brilliant play in tight, going forehand to backhand to beat Mason despite having defensive pressure and not much space.

Moments later, with Lou Nolan still announcing the Simmonds goal, JVR slipped a pass to Matt Carle, who put a shot high over Mason's opposite shoulder. 8-0 Flyers through 40 minutes of play. Riots in the streets of Columbus.

PARADISE LOST, REGAINED
Columbus would unfortunately erase the Flyers' bid for a perfect game, narrowing their lead to a mere touchdown on a Derek Dorsett goal 13 minutes into the third period. That seemed to wake the Flyers out of grind-out-the-game mode for a bit, and Couturier netted his second of the game, fifth of the season, three minutes later. The goal came on a deflected pass from none other than Voracek.

Grant Clitsome (yes, actual real name) was credited with a late Columbus goal, but there wasn't much Bryzgalov could do, as the shot deflected off the stick of Andrej Meszaros and in.

All in all, quite the decisive victory for the Flyers, who thrashed an inferior team for 60 minutes. It as a great response to a lackluster effort against the Devils on Thursday, and everyone contributed.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

NOTES

  • Jake Voracek was named the Bud Light Player of the Game by the CSN telecast, and he certainly had a great night with a goal and two assists. But, with 9 goals on the board for the good guys, you could've thrown a dart at the roster to pick the POG.
  • This was the second time in the last five games that the Flyers have scored eight goals. Fortunately, they weren't woefully bad on defense this time and we got to celebrate the total.
  • Hard to believe, but five of the Flyers skaters were rookies. And, neither were named Brayden Schenn or Matt Read. 
  • One of those rookies, defenseman Erik Gustafsson, was a +6 on the night. Flyers PR notes that the last time a Flyers rookie was plus-6 or ether was in 1984, when both Rich and Ron Sutter were +6 and Thomas Ericsson was a +8. That had to be a hell of a game. Matt Carle narrowly missed equalling Gustafsson's +6, but he was on the ice for the game's final goal.
  • Gus also led all Flyers in ice time with 23 minutes.
  • Jagr's goal in the first increased his streak of seven straight games with a point.
  • Does it seem like I'm frequently apologizing for Bryzgalov on his goals allowed? With all the bounces, deflections, etc. that get on those pucks before they cross the line, it's hard not to.
  • Despite the lopsided score, the Flyers were actually outshot in this one by a 35-33 count. Chalk that up to a similar effect to an NFL team's passing attempts going up when they're down in the second half.
  • In the intro, we mentioned Voracek possibly playing with something to prove. It should be noted that in interviews before and after the game, he dismissed the idea of his harboring ill feelings toward Arniel. He had no interest in addressing the comments, but he was respectful in his words toward the Columbus coach. Stand-up guy.
  • The schedule is quiet this week, which stinks because we want to see some more hockey very soon after that tilt, but with all the injuries, the Flyers could use some recovery time. Next up is the Lightning in Tampa on Wednesday, followed by a trip up to Sunrise, Florida, where they'll play the Panthers on Sunday. I expect those Movember mustaches might be accompanied by a solid tan.

Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

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Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

Midfielder Derrick Jones has made Union history.

On Wednesday, the club announced Jones, 19, has been signed to the Union first team as a Homegrown Player. Currently playing with the Union’s USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel, Jones is the first Union Academy graduate to make the move from Union Academy to Union first team.

“Derrick’s progression through our system has been quicker than anticipated and it’s evident that he is ready for the next step of his career,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in the team’s official release. “This is a testament to Derrick’s commitment to his trade, and it should be considered a tremendous accomplishment to become the first player to come through our Academy, to Bethlehem Steel, and finally to the first team.”

Jones, who moved to Philadelphia in 2012 from Bantana, Ghana, and worked his way through the Union Academy before joining the Steel in 2016, made his Union debut in a friendly match against Crystal Palace on July 13 at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The 6-foot-3 rangy midfielder, who doesn’t have a set position, showed well playing the entire second half, presenting his on-the-ball poise at the attacking mid position.

“Derrick has now set the benchmark for every player in our youth system,” Stewart said. “That there is a pathway to the professional level, and that it is achievable if you remain committed to your goals.”

Jones is the first Union homegrown signing since 2012. Homegrown status means the player avoids being submitted into the MLS SuperDraft. The Union Academy has been around since 2013 and is located at the YSC Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 

“I’m delighted that Derrick is our first and that the work of our staff has come to fruition in this way,” Academy director Tommy Wilson said. “This is a proud moment for Derrick and his family. I would like to congratulate them and everyone else who has played a part in his development.”

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Phillies can be forgiven to some extent for their failure to get consistent production out of their corner outfielders this season. After all, they've been without one of their projected starters since spring training.

The good news is Aaron Altherr is on the verge of returning after missing almost four months with a wrist injury. The 25-year-old reached the final stop of his rehab tour through the Phillies' minor league system Tuesday, going 1 for 3 with a double in a 4-2 victory for the Triple A Ironpigs.

Needless to say, Altherr is feeling better.

"It's going good," Altherr said of his recovery. "It gets a little tight every now and then. Just gotta loosen it up. I'm good to go."

Altherr suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist attempting a diving catch in a Grapefruit League game back in March. The injury was expected to keep the righthander out four-to-six months, possibly even ending his season.

If the current rehab assignment is any indication, it turns out he's about ready to rejoin the Phillies. Through 12 minor league games, which includes stints at Reading, Clearwater and in the Gulf Coast League, Altherr is 13 for 34 (.351) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. He's also walked seven times to six strikeouts and stolen two bases. Yet while clearly enjoying himself, he feels as though he's ready to rejoin the big club.

"It's been fun," Altherr said. "Was just down to (Double A) Reading, good crowd there. It's gonna be another good crowd up here (in Lehigh Valley) I'm sure. I always enjoy going to these places and seeing people again, so it's definitely fun.

"Mentally and physically, I think I'm ready to go. My timing is there. I'm just ready to go and get after it and play some games up there."

As for what he could bring to MLB's 29th-ranked offense, which too often this season has seen little impact from its corner outfielders, Altherr will do what he can to provide a spark for the Phillies.

"I hope so," Altherr said. "I'm not gonna try to do too much though. I'm just gonna go up there and do what I know I can do and hopefully help out the team any way I can."

A ninth-round draft pick in 2009, Altherr got his first serious look with the Phillies last year, batting .241 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 39 games. It wasn't nearly enough to anoint the German-born prospect as part of the franchise's rebuilding effort, but the organization was hoping to use 2016 to evaluate his potential as an everyday player.

"I wouldn't say missed opportunity," Altherr said about the poor timing of his injury. "Things like this happen. I'll get back stronger than ever and show what I can do. It is what it is. I've worked hard every day and tried to get back as fast as I could."

He's right, of course. It's not like all is lost in that sense. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel have had their moments, but none has cemented his role moving forward. Outside of likely September call-up Nick Williams posting quality numbers at Triple A, there isn't exactly a long line of players knocking down the door for one of those two spots.

"There's always going to be competition no matter where you are in life, so I definitely don't really think about it too much," Altherr said. "I just have to go out there and control what I can control and play the way I know I can play."

Altherr's opportunity is coming any day now. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete who also happens to be a plus-defender could bring a lot to the mix for the Phillies right now. It may be too late to find out this year if he has a long and bright future with the club, but he could certainly provide some excitement down the stretch.

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

For all his talk about schemes and technical minutiae, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s coaching philosophy is pretty simple.

“In a nutshell, we want to allow less points than our offense scores," Schwartz said. "Rankings, stats — the only thing that matters in this league is wins and losses. I’ll take a 42-41 game; I might not sleep well afterwards, but I’ll take it. I’d rather have that than a 7-3 game that you lose.”

That said, Schwartz emphasized his defense’s attack-first mindset after the second day of Eagles training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday (see Day 2 observations).

“We want to be an attack defense,” he said. “We want to put pressure on the quarterback.”

While Schwartz has preferred that style throughout his coaching career, he’s always cognizant of his personnel and what sort of approach best suits them. For the Eagles, he feels that a defense in which the front four is putting pressure on the quarterback and the linebackers and defensive backs are playing aggressively is the perfect system (see story).

“I think [this defense] fits the guys really well here,” Schwartz said. “And I think if you’d ask them, they’d rather attack than read. It puts us in a little better position to rush the passer, it puts us in a little better position to set hard edges. It’s been our philosophy. And I think if you ask offensive coordinators, they’d tell you the same thing — if you can get there with four, you have a big advantage as a defense.”

Schwartz talked extensively about how he’s altered his defense depending on the strengths and weaknesses of his players. Looking at defensive ends in particular, Schwartz explained his ends don’t all line up in an identical “Wide 9” alignment. Rather, he noted that the positioning and technique for the pairings of Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Antwan Odom during his time as defensive coordinator in Tennessee (2001-08) varied considerably from that of Cliff Avril and Ziggy Ansah when he coached Detroit (2009-13), and Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes in Buffalo (2014).

“We try to match the talent that we have to the techniques that we’re asking guys to play,” Schwartz said. “And even here, some of the stuff that Brandon [Graham] is doing is a little different than what Vinny [Curry] is doing.”

As for the Eagles’ biggest offseason decision, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Schwartz is very confident in Cox’s ability to thrive in his defense.

“[Cox] fits our scheme," he said. "I think we have some things for him that should fit him well. He’s a tough matchup; he’s a tough matchup vs. guards, he’s a tough matchup vs. some tackles, and I like some of the stuff that they did with him here last year, moved him around a little bit … it’s our job to create matchups for him.”

Even though Schwartz loves to discuss the details that make his defenses succeed, he understands it’s his job to clearly teach his schemes so that his players are able to react and, of course, attack, instead of thinking excessively on the field.

“We want to put guys in good positions, communicate well, play what fits them, all those things are important to us,” he said. “We’re not trying to set a record for being difficult.”