Whoever’s in own goal not Flyers’ gravest concern

Whoever’s in own goal not Flyers’ gravest concern

The news that Steve Mason is out for Game 1 of the Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round series versus the New York Rangers hurts. The possibility he could miss even more time with an “upper-body injury” stemming from a controversial collision against the loathsome Pittsburgh Penguins would be a huge blow to say the least.

Yet the Flyers might have bigger problems on their hands than who’s in goal, which would be the seasoned and competent Ray Emery.

They must solve the great Henrik Lundqvist in the opposing crease, who’s built a 27-13-3 lifetime record against Philadelphia. They must rediscover how to win at Madison Square Garden, a feat that has not been accomplished since Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger donned orange and black.

Whether it’s Mason or Emery or even Cal Heeter between the pipes, netminder is only one part of the equation. The Flyers have to learn, as a team, how to beat Lundqvist, how to beat the Rangers over the course of the next two weeks.

Or they’re done either way.

Yes, there is a clear drop-off from Mason, who’s played some of his best hockey since arriving in Philadelphia at the 2012-13 trade deadline, to Emery, 31 years old and living without 13 centimeters of his leg bone. No one would argue Razor gives the club its best shot.

Emery is certainly capable of holding down the fort for a game or two though, assuming that’s all Mason misses. He'll reportedly join the team in New York on Friday. But that’s still putting the cart before the horse.

You could claim the losing streak at MSG is irrelevant. One victory—preferably Game 1 on Thursday—and the building’s entire mystique, the apparent enchantment it has over this group of Flyers goes up in smoke just like that. Of course, a loss could do the opposite for confidence levels, but they have to win a game on Rangers ice eventually, right?

Unfortunately, Lundqvist’s prowess over the Flyers is all too tangible. They got to him once this season, proving it can be done in a 4-2 win on March 1. The other two encounters with King Henrik were far less fruitful, as the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner stopped a combined 67 shots and allowed just two goals in 4-1 and 3-1 New York victories.

Worry about who’s in net for the Flyers, I do not. For once, there's actually some depth and stability back there.

The opposing team's goaltender is the one you want to worry about. Can the Flyers really best Lundqvist over seven games?

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."