Holdin on to Orange & Black Mettle

Holdin on to Orange & Black Mettle

Is
this the final Flyers gamethread of the 2011-2012 season? With no reason
to obfuscate the obvious, we need to accept the possibility that unless
the Flyers can dramatically turn around the trends of the past three
games, it will be. 

Even some diehard Flyers junkies are calling this
series over already. We're definitely not ready to do that, but we can
understand the perception of lifelessness. The series with the Devils
has been like a four-game methadone dose after two weeks of sped up junk
in the Pittsburgh series. Dramatic highs and excruciating lows replaced
by a gradual dulling of the senses. We still want what nearly killed us
in the first round, but we can barely remember it. 

Without his best player, who has been suspended for a
possible series-deciding game, Peter Laviolette is tasked with
establishing a gameplan that can penetrate an amazingly efficient
forecheck, then generate something resembling sustained pressure. Since
game 1, the Flyers have rarely been able to do so. Failing again tonight
will mean the golf clubs and another early departure from the
postseason—the hallmark of my hockey-watching life. 

Can they turn it around not only tonight, but the next three games?
No GamObviously
the odds are against them. Taking Claude Giroux off the ice doesn't
help matters, although the optimists among us will hope it causes a few
other faces to step up and take control of a listless, toothless
offense. 

It's been said that perhaps G was trying to do too
much on every shift, a draining exercise if the shift proves futile.
Were others perhaps waiting for his heroics to emerge like they did in
the Pittsburgh series? 

How to beat the Devils' forecheck is something that
eludes me. Fortunately, I'm in great company, as Lavvy hasn't figured it
out yet either. Dumping and chasing isn't working, as the Devils are
either winning the race to the end boards or having the puck volleyed
back to them by Martin Brodeur, if icing isn't called. It's like trying
to play dump-and-chase against a team that has a third defenseman
sitting behind the net. 

Simply put, the Devils have been outstanding at
taking away the time the Flyers have to advance the puck. As soon as a
Philadelphia player touches it, a Devil is on him. Once they cross their
own blue line, it's like watching a full-court press, only it lasts all
game.

If the Flyers can't find an offensive strategy to
get through the gauntlet, perhaps the answer is a different style of
play when the Devils have the puck. Overall this series, they don't seem
to finishing checks well or making a point of taking the body whenever
possible. True this can, and has, lead to being out of position, but
maybe being more aggressive without the puck (within reason) will wear
the Devils down while ratcheting up the Flyers intensity to levels
rarely seen in this series. 

It's not a plan, just a place to start. The Flyers
have more talent, but they have not been the better team. The Devils
adherence to their system is the primary dividing line, but their
intensity has been a huge difference too. 
We'd add "Get traffic in front of Brodeur," but that too is pretty obvious, and anyway, they're not generating the shots that would benefit from traffic anyway. If there's time and space to wind and fire, then by all means, put a body in front of the old man. 

Mesz News Ever?Andrej Meszaros could return to the blue line in a last-ditch effort to stagnate an opportunistic Devils attack. No idea how effective he'll be after spending time on the shelf, or how close to 100% he is. 

Coming Up BryzOne thing's for certain,
regardless of what happens in this series, if the Flyers depart, it
won't be the sole fault of Ilya Bryzgalov. Depending on tonight's
action, virtually nothing can be blamed on him. Goaltending was the most
frequently cited concern in last year's playoffs, and ownership wanted
that silenced. For most of the season, it certainly was not, and Bryz
even drew criticism in the opening round, when he was on the ice for
what felt like a series-long shootout. 

But in a series showing far more measured pace, Bryz
has kept his team alive in games during which they've otherwise been
dominated. He hasn't stolen them the proverbial game yet, but it's hard
to ask for much more than he has given.

No one can go into this game thinking the season is over. We've seen the Flyers come back from worse and beat better.

7:30 start time on NBCSN. South Philly get loud.

Instant Replay: No. 22 Butler 74, No. 2 Villanova 66

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 22 Butler 74, No. 2 Villanova 66

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. – No. 22 Butler scored 18 straight points down the stretch and stunned No. 2 Villanova 74-66 Wednesday night at the Pavilion.

The loss was the third this year for the defending national champs and the second to Butler. It was also Villanova’s first loss on campus in more than four years.

Villanova led by as many as eight points early in the second half and by seven at 49-42 with 9½ minutes left before Butler scored 18 straight points over a 5½-minute span to take a 60-49 lead with four minutes left.

Villanova went scoreless from 10:35 left in the game to 4:05, a span of 6½ minutes.

Villanova cut the lead from 11 to four in the final minute but Butler made its final eight foul shots to secure its first win ever on the road against the Wildcats.

The loss was the first ever on campus for Villanova’s seniors. Villanova hadn’t lost at the Pavilion since February of 2013.

Sophomore Jalen Brunson shot 9 for 13 after his 7 for 7 against Seton Hall Saturday and finished with 24 points.

The rest of the Wildcats shot a combined 16 for 44.

Josh Hart scored 18 points on 7 for 18 shooting.

Kris Jenkins shot just 1 for 8 and 1 for 5 from three for three points, and Mikal Bridges also had three points on just 1 for 3 from the field.

Butler led 8-0 after 3½ minutes before Villanova outscored the Bulldogs 44-28 over the next 22½ minutes to take their biggest lead, 44-36, with 13 minutes left.

What it means 
Butler, which beat Villanova 66-58 on Jan. 4 in Indianapolis, completed a season sweep of Villanova. Butler was 0-7 before this year against the Wildcats.

Villanova fell to 26-3 and 13-3 in the Big East. Butler improved to 22-6 and 11-5, keeping alive its hopes of winning the Big East regular-season title.

One more Villanova win or Butler loss and Creighton loss would deliver the conference title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament to the Wildcats.

The loss ended Villanova’s record 48-game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Wildcats’ last loss on campus was by a 55-52 score to Providence on Feb. 3, 2013.

Stat of the day
Hart, a 79 percent foul shooter, was 0 for 4 from the foul line and missed two front ends of one-and-ones.  

Turning point
The Wildcats led by six when Kelan Martin and Tyler Lewis made threes 45 seconds apart to tie the game at 49 and start that 18-0 run. Villanova never got the momentum back.

By the numbers
• Martin led Butler with 16 points and Kamar Baldwin added 15 before fouling out.

• Butler shot 7 for 13 from three in the second half and 10 for 25 overall.

• Villanova was just 5 for 19 from three.

• Villanova committed 10 of its 15 turnovers in the first half 

• Villanova shot just 10 for 16 from the foul line, with seven of the 10 makes coming in the final 79 seconds 

• Butler had 21 assists on 27 baskets, Villanova had eight assists on 23 baskets 

• Villanova scored 17 points in the game’s final 4:05 

• Senior post Darryl Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fourth straight game with a rib injury. He’s considered day to day.

What’s next
On Saturday afternoon, Villanova plays its final game at the Pavilion until November of 2018, facing Creighton at 3 p.m.

Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year.

The Wildcats finish the regular season at Georgetown on March 4 and open play in the Big East Tournament five days later.

Instant Replay: Capitals 4, Flyers 1

Instant Replay: Capitals 4, Flyers 1

BOX SCORE

Fresh off their poor Western Canada road trip, the Flyers faced the top team in the NHL for a Wednesday Night Rivalry tilt at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
The last time the Washington Capitals met the Flyers in mid-January, the Caps humiliated them, 5-0, in D.C.
 
No rout this time, but the Caps still defeated the Flyers, 4-1, as more precious points slipped away in the search for a wild card. 
 
Evgeny Kuznetsov had two goals for the Caps. His second was a crusher, coming in the final 2:01 of the second period to give Washington a 3-1 lead.
 
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break and 9-15-4 since their 10-game win streak.
 
Coach’s challenge
Barry Trotz challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal 23 seconds into the game for goaltender interference. It was an easy goal to overturn, too, as Dale Weise clearly pushed Braden Holtby aside before Voracek scored.
 
No goal
Trailing 2-0, Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov thought he scored in the opening minute of the second period. The game stopped and the Flyers celebrated while the officials huddled. Replays showed the puck hit the crossbar.
 
Points
Nick Backstrom’s first-period goal was his fifth goal and 15th point in his last 10 games.
 
Notable goals
Kuznetsov’s power-play goal went in and out of the net so quickly, no one was really certain it was a goal. That is why Sean Couturier remained in the box a good 30 seconds after it was scored.
 
Goalie report
Michal Neuvirth was making his fifth straight in goal.

Holtby had an excellent stop on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s backhander at the right post with 6:18 left in the first period.
 
Power play
The Flyers were 0-for-2. They mixed up their first unit and changed the personnel back to its former self, even putting Shayne Gostisbehere back on the point and Voracek back at the half-wall. Their second power play had several passes just a hair off for a clean shot.
 
Penalty kill
The Caps had the Flyers chasing their passes all over the ice on their power play. They were 1-for-2 in the game.
 
Injuries
The Caps lost defenseman Matt Niskanen in second period with a lower-body injury.
 
Fights
There were several scrums on one board play in the second period but no fights.
 
Scratches
Forwards Jordan Weal (concussion) and Travis Konecny (left ankle and knee), defensemen Nick Schultz (healthy) and Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The Flyers practice on Thursday 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They leave later that day for Pittsburgh and will practice Friday at 5 p.m. at Heinz Field for the Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins on Saturday.