Zac Rinaldo Got Thrown Out For This

Zac Rinaldo Got Thrown Out For This

Not the most memorable Saturday in Philly sports history, but not the end of the world, either. The Flyers lost a meaningless playoff preamble in Pittsburgh, the Phils offense stayed in the locker room a second straight day, and the Sixers… I didn't watch, but it appears as if they lost again too. Actually, I only saw the Flyers game in its entirety. The Phillies we caught over the radio with Franzke & LA with a backyard fire. So, I don't have a lot to say about either the Phils or the Sixers today. 
Here's a bit on the Flyers' finale, but admittedly not much. It had the action of a preseason game, and not much more meaning. The most interesting moment may have come in the first period, when Zac Rinaldo was given the gate for a check that toed the line between legality and a 2-minute minor. The Flyers had to withstand a 5-minute major and lost a forward who was scheduled for a heavier complement of ice time than usual. 
Watch below, see if you think it's worth a full misconduct—or if the refs were just trying to eliminate all possible threats to their peacekeeping mission. 

OK, so Rinaldo ran Zbynek Michalek there. But Michalek knew full well he wasn't alone going into the end boards, and he did nothing to protect himself or get out of the danger zone quickly. If anything, he turned into the boards. And, as the announcers pointed out, Rinaldo did pull up a bit, rather than barreling full-speed into him. He stopped striding and glided into the hit. No elbows, no sticks up, no head shots. Michalek didn't miss a single shift, and Rinaldo's day was over. 
Later, Jody Shelley would be given a phantom 10-minute misconduct, effectively ending his day as well. 
Both were plainly overreactions by the refs. But they'd pretty clearly been instructed not to let this game get out of hand, and hopefully to keep any potential injuries to a minimum. Their manner of doing so was to just take two of the most likely catalysts out of the equation. 
GAME NOTESThe Flyers made the decision to rest Claude Giroux, who may have a cold according to Lisa Hilary, and certainly didn't have much to play for with the standings locked. Danny Briere is still out indefinitely after taking a hit from Joe Vitale—something the coaches may have wanted to eliminate from Giroux's possible plight. Nick Grossmann seems to be progressing, but again, why rush him with rest days and only practice for a few days before the playoffs begin. 
Ilya Bryzgalov will be one of the biggest keys to the series ahead. Given that he's sporting a chip fracture, there was no need to play him either. After Bryz's March, which saw him named the Star of the Month, there is no confidence left to build. It could be argued he could benefit from some game action and sharpness after missing a few games, but it was tough to peg what kind of game this would be, and even Pittsburgh pulled MAF midway through it. 
The rough stuff came early, but didn't last, in part due to the very purposeful overstepping of bounds by the referees. For some reason, it was Harry Z who answered the call to throw down with Vitale, and uh… it didn't go well. 

Not exactly sure what Harry was going for with that leg kick/canopener thing he was doing. Was it involuntary due to getting hit in the head? Some kind of matrix-like attempt at gaining leverage?
It looked like Jody Shelley and Steve MacIntyre were gonna go, but this fight pre-empted it. MacIntyre was called up for just such an occasion as Shelley trying to exact revenge from Vitale for his hits on Briere and Nick Grossmann. 
Oh well. 
Brayden Schenn and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Flyers, who lost 4-2. Crosby and Malkin each scored in a decisive second period. 
BRIGHT SIDESchenn played a helluva game, continuing his emergence as a top-flight NHL threat. This kid could be a major difference maker in the postseason. With Giroux out, Schenn really stepped up, with playmaking, offensive opportunities, and some nice hits. 
After Rinaldo got the gate, the Flyers killed off 5 minutes of Penguins power play time, and this was before the Pens began resting their stars. 
Just gotta laugh at this one sequence in the second period, when the game really started to slip into meaninglessness. Jagr was called for hooking after Kris Letang clamped his arm down on Jagr's stick, then dragged himself to the ice as Jags waved his free arm to signal that Letang was holding his stick. A little move we're gonna dub The Penguin Wing. Two minutes in the box for Mr. Jagr, and Crosby scores on the ensuing power play. It's laughable in game 82. We're breaking shit if it happens in the playoffs. 
Would it have been great if the Flyers had topped the Penguins? Absolutely. We'd be talking about how they set the tone for the playoff series, how Pittsburgh owned no home-ice advantage, and even a team without Danny, Claude, Nick, and Ilya was enough to win. 
Not surprisingly, it wasn't. Fortunately, after the first 20 or 30 minutes of the game, it felt nothing like meaningful hockey, so we're not worried about its outcome. 

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”