Philly Rolls Through Chicago

Philly Rolls Through Chicago

My kind of town, Chicago is..  First off, some general thoughts on the town of Chicago.  The city is beautiful and the fact that there is a beach along the whole town is pretty amazing.  Everywhere we went was very nice and extremely clean.  The people were also incredibly friendly and nice, even when a few of us (see scooter) were living up to their Philly reputations.

We started Friday off at the Cubby Bear which is directly across the street from the famous Wrigley Field sign.  It reminded me of a Chikie and Pete's feel.  There was a real solid showing of Philly fans here, and also the entire weekend.  For Friday's game we sat along the first base side in the last possible row, but much like CBP the view was still very nice.  The rooftop seats outside of the park are pretty impressive and Wrigley has a tremendous baseball vibe to it.  The Phillies played pretty well and Cory Lidle pitched a great outing to give the Phillies a chance to win.  Our group was questioning the move to pitch to Derek Lee.  But Latroy Hawkins came through to be the MVP of the game for the Phils.  It was great to get a win in our first time at Wrigley.

Post game we checked out Hi-Tops which was a good time.  Very nice scenery and a packed house following the game.  We rested up a bit after that and took a walk along the beach.  I have never been to a major city with a beach before, so I thought it was pretty impressive.  This is where we have a great group shot with some nice Chicagoins.  After we checked out the beach we ran into the guy on the scooter who allowed our special friend take it for some off roading.

Friday night we wandered around the city a bit and ended up at nice bar called Cactus.  I am a huge fan of any bar where you can drink outside, and the weather was perfect.  Great times.  We think we went somewhere after Cactus, but no one can confirm this.  Please note on the picture below of the Wrigley Field sign, it isn't just horribly off center, I was trying to get the Phillies flag in the picture as well.

We got a slower start to Saturday and ended up opting to watch most of the game at Hi-Tops and later Goose Island Wrigleyville.  One of the highlights of Saturday's game may have been Will Ferrell singing the National Anthem in his phenomenal Harry Carey voice.  Ditka was also there.

Random Phillies notes: no one likes Jose Offerman, also Ryan Howard has been pitiful.

The Phillies won Saturday's game and Billy Wagner made everyone happy by showing his stuff.

Following the game we decided to go all out Chicago style and hit up the great steakhouse Gene & Georgetti's on Franklin Street.  I went with the filet mignon, garlic mashed, and shared some creamed spinach.  We also downed a few bottles of a nice shiraz.  After dinner we went to see a show at The Second City which is a comedy club famous for producing SNL stars.  The show didn't disappoint, at least it didn't disappoint those who got to see all of it.  The show was actually really long and very funny.  A great guest appearance in the third set included Jim Belushi and his son as well as two other former SNL guys, but they were older so I didn't recognize them.  Following this we hit up Dublins where the beers are cold and the drinks don't stay down to well.

Sunday we headed to the ball park earlier than usual because most of us just wanted to watch a baseball game.  We had bleacher seats and we couldn't have asked for better weather.


Bobby Abreu was the only Phillie to get anything on the board for the Fightins and we had to leave the brooms at home.  We sat in right center, right behind Bobby Abreu, who much to the dismay (or was it the opposite) of our crew butchered a fly ball he could have caught.  Brett Myers pitched very well, with the exception of two dingers he allowed.  The fans in the bleachers were great, we made a few cubbie friends.

It was an awesome weekend of basball in the windy city.  Who's booking the trip to San Diego?

For the complete photo album of the weekend click here.

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze the job head coach Brett Brown has done this season.

Haughton
Brown's performance has already resulted in more wins than any other season under his leadership, but it continues to be a complex judgment.

He's still tied to an extremely young roster, which lends itself to the high number of turnovers, mistakes coming out of timeouts and defensive breakdowns. 

However, he has managed to get several players to show growth in their games and make sure the Sixers remain balanced even with Joel Embiid's emergence. That can also be attributed to Brown's emphasis on state of play and not state of pay.

He turned to T.J. McConnell ($874,636 salary) at starting point guard over Sergio Rodriguez ($8 million) because the second-year pro has proven to be a better fit and has routinely moved Gerald Henderson ($9 million) from starter to reserve.

Then of course, there has been Brown's handling of the Sixers' mashup at center. The coach has found each guy minutes when he can and, according to the players, been up front about all potential minutes and trade scenarios.

Perhaps Brown's finest job this season has come in a role he thought was over: team delegate. Once Sam Hinkie exited and Bryan Colangelo proclaimed he would be more open with information, Brown certainly had to think his days of standing in front of the media to explain every single thing going on with the franchise were over. Think again. 

Still, Brown's been there each day, answering just about every question thrown his way from injuries to trade rumors. If nothing else, he deserves to be commended for dealing with that ... again.

Hudrick
It's amazing what a few NBA-caliber players can do.

After accumulating a 47-199 record over his first three seasons, Brown has led the Sixers to a 21-35 mark so far this season. Sure, much of the credit for the team's success has to do with adding legitimate NBA talent (and a legitimate NBA star in Embiid). With that said, you're finally starting to see Brown's fingerprints on the Sixers.

A protégé of Gregg Popovich's with the Spurs, Brown preaches defense and ball movement. The Sixers' defense has been a catalyst for their success this season. As Brown says in his Bostralian accent, the defensive end is where the Sixers' "bread is buttered." 

With unselfish players with decent court vision like Dario Saric and Gerald Henderson added to the mix, the Sixers don't look like a total disaster in the half court. They're ninth in the NBA at 23.5 assists per game. They haven't finished higher than 15th in the league in any of Brown's three seasons. 

When you consider what Brown has gone through and how he's managed to keep everything positive, it's incredible. Hinkie pegged Brown as his guy, knowing that Brown was an excellent teacher and had the right attitude to deal with losing. You have to be encouraged by what you've seen out of Brown and the Sixers this season.

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth