Meltdown: Flyers Blow Three-Goal First-Period Lead versus Loathsome Penguins

Meltdown: Flyers Blow Three-Goal First-Period Lead versus Loathsome Penguins

This is the definition of letting one slip away.

The Flyers jumped out to a 4-1 first-period lead over the
Pittsburgh Penguins in what was arguably the most dominant 20 minutes of hockey
they have played all season. Orange sweaters swarmed the road whites, their
dominance at both ends of the ice helping to create an 18-4 shots advantage,
while the combination of dumb penalties by James Neal and the leaky goaltending
of Marc-Andre Fleury forced the scoreboard operator to earn his paycheck.

But if you happened to catch a Flyers-Penguins tilt at any
point in the last year, you had to know there was a good chance this one wasn’t
over yet. Sure enough Pittsburgh racked up four consecutive goals – three in
the second, then the decisive tally 18 seconds into the third – which were enough
to steal a 5-4 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tough to say whether the problem was the Flyers actively deciding
to sit on their lead, or if the Penguins were simply able to dial up the
pressure. Most likely it was a bit of both. Not much a team can do about a highly-skilled
opponent awakening from their slumber, but Peter Laviolette’s troops seemed
content at times to continue chipping the puck out of their zone rather than
attempt move up with it. If that was indeed the case, then a cardinal sin was
committed here.

Give the Pens their due though. As much as the Flyers
bullied them at the start, Crosby and mates finally grew a set and dominated on
the forecheck coming out of the intermission. If Philly wasn’t going on the
attack, it was at least in part because their opponent was buzzing around the
ice. Pitt turned the tables in period two, outshooting the Flyers 12-3, and
they were never quite able to regain that early momentum.

Dan Bylsma’s decision to pull Fleury following his
disastrous start, while a no-brainer, provided a boost for the Penguins as
well. He looked rattled on goal number three in particular, a soft snap shot from
the point by Kimmo Timonen that trickled through the goaltender. Tomas Vokoun
replaced Fleury after the break, faring much better than he did when the two
teams met a few weeks ago... then again, he only faced 14 shots.

Ilya Bryzgalov would join Fleury on the bench toward the end
of the second frame, although it’s hard to pin the loss on the cosmonaut’s
performance. James Neal banked his 15th goal of the season in off of Braydon
Coburn to cut Pittsburgh’s deficit to one, and Tyler Kennedy knotted the score
while Bryz was blinded by Brandon Sutter and Bruno Gervais in front. Brian
Boucher replaced Billy nonetheless, eventually surrendering the clincher on
the first shot he faced.

The Flyers opened the third period with a solid scoring
chance, but it wound up backfiring thanks to a bad judgment call by Timonen.
The veteran blueliner pinched up on a puck that likely would have cleared the
zone anyway, a mistake he compounded by whiffing on the puck. The error led to
a two-on-one the other way, leaving Boosh virtually no chance as Chris Kunitz
fired home his 14th.

It’s always difficult to stomach losses like this,
especially given the opponent. And you don’t even want to think about it right
now, but there are obvious repercussions in the standings. This is
Flyers-Penguins hockey though, and while it’s not going to sit well, crazy
things have a way of unfolding. Maybe we shouldn’t read too much into what
happened here.

Yet there was a definite turning point in this game after
the first period, and given how inconsistent the Flyers have been all season
long, it’s impossible to chalk it up under the old “just one game” excuse.
Whether it was an ill-advised change in their approach, or they simply showed
their true colors as an inferior team, the end result was inexcusable.

Notes

Jakub Voracek found the back of the net twice on
Philadelphia power plays, putting him back on top in the clubhouse with 14
tallies this season. He also led the way with seven shots.

Zac Rinaldo had his first-career two point game, slamming
home a goal and adding a helper. He finished with only two hits on the other
hand.

Nicklas Grossmann blocked five shots to extend his
league-leading total to 73.

>> BOX SCORE

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Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman is going all WWE on the NFC East. 

Washington's outspoken cornerback is featured in a lengthy Q&A with Bleacher Report and he's, well, outspoken. 

He starts in the story by saying crazy things like this: "I feel like King Leonidas leading an army into battle, leading troops into defending your territory."

Yeah, off to a good start. 

He then goes after his nemesis Odell Beckham Jr. hard, calls Dez Bryant "just a guy" and even has some thoughts on new Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery. 

Norman praised receivers Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, saying there aren't those types of challenging players in the NFC East. He was asked if there was any player he has circled on his schedule. 

Jeffery was the one that came to mind. 

"Alshon [Jeffery] is going to be with us this year," Norman told Bleacher Report. "He's a big guy. He uses his body. And I enjoy going against big guys because they think they can get physical with me. They think that. That's quite the contrary."

Norman will get his shot against Jeffery in the opener, when the Eagles travel to Washington on Sept. 10. 

Comparatively, Jeffery got off easy. Norman was much less complimentary when speaking about Beckham, with whom he has an infamous history, and Bryant, the Cowboys' top receiver. 

On Bryant: "That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy."

Norman might have a little point with Bryant, who has failed to go over 800 yards in either of his last two seasons. In 2016, he caught 50 passes for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. From 2012-14, Dez was over 12,000 yards with at least 12 touchdowns in each of the three seasons. 

He even called Bryant a "fake tough guy" for his behavior on the field.  

But even Bryant got off easy. 

There's no secret about the way Norman feels toward Beckham. And Norman didn't hold anything back. Based on his comments, the WWE speak may turn into WWE-type action during the 2017 season. 

Here's a part of the Q&A about ODB: 

You get Beckham twice a year now.

Yeah, and that game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. You know what I'm saying? It's like when it becomes bigger than the game. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!

So when you think of Odell, what is his game?

He tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other. He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy.

How so?

When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man.

Like messing around with a kicker's net.

When you really, really want to see what a person's really like, you get in their face, you smell what they ate and you take their soul from them. How do you do that? You put your fist right into their chest and you see what they're made out of.

And you did exactly that with him. What did you see in Beckham?

You see a person who's actually not what they're made out to be. Because they come back at you. And that's not him. They come back at you in a way like, "He's not going to punk me! He's not going to sissy me out!" All right! But then when you go and you do things you're not accustomed to doing, that's pretty much what it is.

This is going to be fun. 

Throughout the whole thing, Norman speaks like a classing wrestling heel. If nothing else, the trash talk is going to make the NFC East more fun. 

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."