Ill Communication: Flyers' Lapses Ugly in Loss to Blues

Ill Communication: Flyers' Lapses Ugly in Loss to Blues

Philly sports fans had just one game to tune in to or catch down at the complex this weekend, and after having watched it… I hope you had something better to do. If so, but you still want The Update, read on.

For the second straight game, the Flyers outshot their opponents yet lost convincingly. Despite coming off a night of rest when the Blues were playing for the second time in as many days, and had arrived in Philadelphia close to 4 AM, the Flyers were outplayed by St. Louis on Saturday night and lost by a 4-2 count.

Defensive miscues and poor communication between the blueliners and goaltender combined with some good bounces for the Blues to doom the Flyers, who had trouble with pucks and players close to their own net. Credit Blues goalie Brian Elliott for giving his team the opportunity to win this one, and his forwards for cashing in when the Flyers defense and goaltending failed to do the same. There was definitely plenty to talk about after this one, though a lot
of it isn't entirely pleasant.

All that and some video highlights below.

It's only two games, so we're not going to spend too much time worrying about it, but the Flyers' fast start has settled into some inconsistency that is understandable with a team that has seen so many changes, many involving a lot of young players and a new goaltender. There's definitely some work to be done here... 

GET IT TOGETHER
After the game, Bryzgalov emphasized the need to simplify the communication between himself and the defense.

“We
have to establish it because it needs to be very simple. We need to
have three words and everybody has to know these words—"play it,"
"leave it," or "over." Not, everybody comes up with his own words, like "I'll pick up," or "don't
touch," or something like that. It needs to be a simple three words so
everybody understands everybody and we're all on the same page. And
then we won't have this problem in the future.”

With a new goalie playing behind a defense that is largely intact from last season, there's a clear need for some better understanding of what everyone wants to do with the puck in given situations. Bryz may have had some trouble finding the exact words to express what needs to happen, but his message that the communication was poor is clear.

However, there was also just some ineffective play by the defense in clearing Blues forwards and blocking shots, as well as sluggishness by Bryz on a few of the second efforts. Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros looked like a pair of Bobos on the Corner, failing to clear a pair of forwards and let the puck trickle in front of the crease for one easy goal, and a poor handoff between Bryz and Meszaros gave them another simple potter and me a heart attack, man. Kimmo Timonen's mistake wasn't quite as lamentable, but he got caught in no-man's land on the Blues' first goal, not taking a man and failing to block a shot (while probably screening Bryzgalov).

Overall, a very poor showing in the defensive end for the Flyers.

TOUGH GUY
Carlo Colaiacovo was named the game's first star, followed by Danny Briere, but I think I'd have given it to Brian Elliott. Elliott once again stifled the Flyers, many of whom weren't on the team the last time he kicked it root down on Philly. His numbers against the Flyers weren't great last year, but he's now 5-2-0 against the Flyers in six starts, including two shutouts and a gem of a two-goals-against performance on Saturday night. Elliott absolutely robbed a few Flyers, including Claude Giroux at a range from which he rarely misses. His defense was stronger than a mic'd up Wayne Simmonds led us to believe, too. The Flyers held control for some long stretches, but just couldn't generate too many meaningful opportunities, nor second-effort chances. The pucks weren't bouncing the Flyers' way in the offensive zone either, though it's not much of an excuse.

B-BOYS MAKIN WITH THE FREAK FREAK
The line of Simmonds, Danny Briere, and Brayden Schenn was the Flyers' best of the night. In his second game with the Flyers, Schenn saw his minutes jump from 11:03 to 19:20, in large part because Lavvy couldn't keep his line off the ice. The unit had some strong attacks on the net, and Simmonds was in Blues' faces all night. Like the rest of the Flyers, they got off to a slow start, but Lavvy rotated Briere to the wing and Schenn to his natural center position to start the second, and it paid immediate dividends as Simmonds found a streaking Briere for the Flyers' first goal.

Sure Shot
Simmonds had a nice backhand flip to Briere, who torched one over Elliott's glove from a very small angle.

SABOTAGE
Chris Pronger absolutely lit up David Backes as the Blues captain skated hard with the puck toward the Flyers' net. Big train met little train, and little train went off the tracks and didn't return.  

THE SCOOP
Again, it's not the end of the world or even all that surprising for this Flyers team to hit a rocky patch early on, and so far we're only looking at a pair of losses. There's definitely some problematic elements they can point specifically at and try to fix in practice, which is a good thing. Tonight's issues are fixable, and the players the Flyers have in place are plenty good enough to work through them. There are a lot of kids on the forward lines, but the goaltender is a veteran and so are the d-men in front of him. There's a clear communication issue and some overall indecisiveness by the defense, all of which could work itself out with more reps in practice and games played.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Up next is another home tilt, this time with the Maple Leafs on Monday night.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night’s start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds’ win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don’t think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero -- Tommy Joseph -- with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three ground ball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "So if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds’ starter kept the ball down and didn’t allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on ground balls and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies’ aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday’s starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, where he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego -- 6.19 -- and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games -- five losses -- and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We’re better than this. I know we’re better than this. We’ve just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it’s something we’ve got to do. Today wasn’t too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice ground ball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It’s hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it’s all because we’re missing good pitches to hit. We’re getting pitches to hit and we’re not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We’re trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it’s tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We’re just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."