The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift

Unless you managed to avoid newspapers, television, the
Internet, talk radio, or interaction with another human being in the Delaware
Valley this morning, you no doubt have already heard the Flyers lost 5-2 to the
New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

That’s nothing new of course, only this time the Bullies’
playoff chances are being pronounced dead at the scene – the proverbial final
nail driven into their coffin, and the first shovel full of dirt dumped on top
for good measure. Appropriately enough, the Wells Fargo Center sang the Orange
& Black out of the arena to a hymn of boos, while the dressing room was as
somber as a wake afterward.

Cause of death? We’ll have to wait awhile for the autopsy
results, but people closest to the victim are describing it as a lack of
effort.

That’s more or less what Wayne Simmonds had to say after the
game, claiming his mates haven’t put up a fight each and every time they’ve
stepped on to the ice this season. That echoes statements Kimmo Timonen has
been making for the last few weeks, and again after this most recent defeat,
suggesting reporters stick a microphone in each and every players’ face and ask
them why they aren’t ready to play.
Even captain Claude Giroux admitted the Flyers weren’t “ready.” [click here for
video of their post-game statements
]

But just who exactly are the offenders here?

Giroux has fallen far short of incredible expectations this
season, but who is watching him skate and thinking to themselves, “That dude
isn’t trying hard enough.”

No sane person would dare question the effort of a
consummate pro like Timonen, who enjoyed a lengthy celebration of his 1,000
games played in the NHL prior to puck drop on Tuesday.

It sure as hell wasn’t Simmonds, either, who took a puck to
the face early in the tilt only to return and score Philly’s first goal – one
that briefly felt like it might rally the troops.

Even general manager Paul Holmgren laid the blame almost
entirely at his players’ feet two weeks ago, saying he would like to see the
boys “compete better.”

Well, where are the slackers?

Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have parroted the same
lines, so obviously not among the ranks of leadership. Briere and Hartnell,
along with Matt Read and Andrej Meszaros, have all rushed back from injuries
this year, while guys like Nicklas Grossmann and Zac Rinaldo are clearly putting
their bodies on the line every night. Long-time veterans Simon Gagne, Max
Talbot, and Ruslan Fedotenko have hoisted the Stanley Cup, so they know what it
takes to compete at the highest level. Then there are young kids who have
everything in the world to prove, from Jakub Voracek and the Schenns whose spots
are somewhat solidified, to the Tye McGinns and Harry Zolnierczyks scraping for
every last second of ice time. Oh, and lest we forget that Ilya Bryzgalov NEVER
rests.

Get out of here with that stuff. Outsiders who would cast doubt
on an athlete’s effort has always been a pet peeve of mine, not because it’s
never true, but because typically it’s completely, 100% unsubstantiated. Only in
this instance it isn’t fans or members of the media making accusations by and
large, but instead seemingly anybody and everybody associated with the
organization.

It’s nothing more than an excuse, and not even a very good
one. The Flyers aren’t winning because the opponent is usually better, it’s
that simple.

The real question is whether or not that should be the case.
The Flyers as they are currently constituted have their share of flaws, but is
there any legitimate reason why with their talent they should be ranked 14th
out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference right now? Sorry, I have some trouble
seeing that.

This isn’t tee ball. Everybody trying their hardest is not a
solution.

Yes, going forward the front office must do a better job of equipping
this team with the pieces it needs to compete for a championship, whichever
parts you armchair GMs out there think are most important. That being said,
clearly there is a much bigger issue on Broad Street. Either these guys truly
are not working hard enough, or they are keeping quiet about the real problem.

Which is fine. Nobody can blame the locker room for sticking
together, in fact it may even be a good sign. Then again, maybe they simply don’t
have the answer – and that’s the scary part.

Earlier:
>> Priced to Move? Examining Flyers' Options as Trade Deadline Approaches
>> Peter Laviolette Is One of Flyers' Few Moving Parts


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Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
 
Don’t worry about the role.
 
Just pitch.
 
That’s Adam Morgan’s mindset this spring.
 
“I’m just trying to show whoever needs to see it that I can be an asset to this team,” the left-hander said after his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Saturday (see story). “I’m just keeping it simple that way. I’m not trying to go out for that fifth (starting) spot. If the fifth spot opens up, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want to put me in the bullpen, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want me to be the backup catcher, I’ll be the backup catcher.”
 
The Phillies have plenty of candidates for backup catcher.
 
And the top five spots in their starting rotation, barring an unforeseen development, are accounted for.
 
But there is a way for Morgan to make this team.
 
“He’s definitely a bullpen candidate,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin is on record as saying he’d like to have two lefties in what likely will be a seven-man bullpen. It might not work out that way, but that would be Mackanin’s preference.
 
Morgan is one of what appears to be four candidates along with Joely Rodriguez, Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett. Ramos and Burnett are experienced major-league veterans in camp on minor-league contracts. Rodriguez is the only pure lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Morgan, of course, is on the 40-man roster, but he’s mainly been a starter in his career.

There’s a long way to go in spring training and it would not be surprising to see general manager Matt Klentak add to the list of lefty relief candidates with some type of pickup before the end of camp.
 
But for now, it’s just these four.
 
Morgan, who turns 27 on Monday, started and pitched two scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday and will likely continue to have his innings stretched out throughout the Grapefruit League season, just in case he’s needed as a starter.

Ramos and Rodriguez both pitched an inning Saturday. Ramos allowed a hit and a run. Rodriguez had a clean inning. Burnett was tagged for two hits and two runs on Friday.
 
Morgan made 21 starts for the Phillies last season. He also made two relief appearances and finished the season with a 6.04 ERA. He was sent to Triple A in July and returned in mid-August. He made nine starts after returning and pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs in four of them.
 
During his time in Triple A, Morgan started throwing a two-seam fastball or sinker. He’s continued to throw it this spring and believes it will help him.
 
“I learned to trust the two-seamer last year and that’s what I hope to keep moving forward with,” he said.
 
Will it take him to the Phillies’ bullpen?
 
He hopes so. He got a taste of relieving last season and liked it.
 
“Oh, yeah, I loved it,” he said. “Every time the phone rang down there, I was on high alert. It was awesome. It’s a rush.
 
“But wherever I land, I land. I’d be willing to play anywhere on this team.”

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA – Sophomore transfer Eric Paschall scored a team-high 19 points – including five dunks – and Kris Jenkins added 15, as No. 2 Villanova pulled away late to beat No. 23 Creighton, 79-63, and clinch the 2017 Big East Conference regular-season title outright.

Paschall, starting during Darryll Reynolds’ injury absence, shot 8 for 12 from the field and added six rebounds.

Creighton’s last lead was 45-43 six minutes into the second half, but a Paschall slam and Jenkins’ first three after five misses sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 59-49 lead with 8 ½ minutes left. Creighton got no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Paschall’s career high is a 31-point game for Fordham against NYIT on Nov. 14, 2014.

Villanova again struggled from three-point range but had tremendous success attacking the basket, especially in the second half of the final game at the Pavilion for two years.

The Wildcats shot just 17 percent from three (3 for 18) but 69 percent from 2 (24 for 35) and repeatedly got to the foul line in the second half, when they were 14 for 18.

Jenkins again struggled from three (1 for 7) yet still finished with 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Josh Hart shot 7 for 11 for 16 points and added seven rebounds and three assists.

Villanova opened a streaky first half by taking a 7-0 lead, but Creighton hit four straight threes in less than two minutes and led by three. Villanova then went on a 17-2 run and led by as many as 10 points before Creighton finished the half on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 33.

There were seven lead changes in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Villanova finally pulled away and outscored Creighton 36-18 over the last 14 minutes.

Mikal Bridges added 11 points and eight rebounds for Villanova, while Jalen Brunson had nine points and three assists.

Freshman Dante DiVincenzo came off the bench to contribute nine points and four rebounds for Villanova.

What it means
Villanova improved to 27-3 overall and 14-3 in the Big East, clinching the conference title outright. Entering play Saturday, only Villanova or Butler was in position to win the conference title, with Villanova holding a magic number of one.

Villanova, which lost to Butler on Wednesday, has now won 12 straight games immediately following losses (15 if you carry over to the next year).

The Wildcats last lost consecutive games at the end of the 2012-2013 season, when they fell to Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals and to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Creighton fell to 22-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big East. The Bluejays are 4-6 since an 18-1 start.

Stat of the day
Marcus Foster had 25 points and eight assists, becoming the first player with 25 points and five assists against Villanova since Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds (and five steals) in a 93-72 win over Villanova on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

Turning point 
Villanova led by one at 48-47 when Jenkins finally buried a three for a four-point lead.

Moving out
This was Villanova’s last game at the Pavilion for about 20 months. Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year while renovations are made to the Pavilion.

Villanova is 293-62 all-time at the Pavilion, which opened in 1985. That includes a 131-12 mark since the start of the 2004-2005 season.

By the numbers
Khyri Thomas scored 17 points for the Bluejays … Creighton was 7 for 14 from three in the first half but 4 for 13 in the second half ... Villanova has won six straight against Creighton since a 101-80 loss in February of 2014 when Doug McDermott scored 39 … Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fifth straight game with a rib injury.  

What's next
Villanova has a week off before facing Georgetown at the Verizon Center in Washington at noon Saturday. Georgetown is 14-15 overall and 5-11 in the Big East.