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. 

Ragdoll'd… 
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. 

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."