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Round 2: Flyers Favored, But Jersey's Devil Could Be in Their Dormant Balance

Round 2: Flyers Favored, But Jersey's Devil Could Be in Their Dormant Balance

Once again paired against a divisional rival, the Flyers' second-round matchup with the New Jersey Devils feels very little like the opening round battle against the Penguins. Despite having played the Devils as frequently as the Penguins for years and even facing off in a recent (2010) playoff series, Jersey certainly seems the less familiar foe. 
The flames of the rivalry aren't quite as intense as they were a decade ago, at least not at the moment. Something tells me by this time next week, they'll be rekindled if not roaring. 
If you're entering this series at a bit of a loss for the who these Devils are, you're not alone. Aside from the nearly 40-year-old Martin Brodeur and high-priced sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, they don't have the star power to stand out like the Penguins or Rangers. And yet, they finished right in the thick of the best division in the NHL. 
To beat the Devils, the Flyers will have to shut down an underrated offense anchored by a dominant top line but peppered with scorers throughout. They'll have to beat a goalie who once owned them but can no longer lay claim to their title and deed. And they'll have to sidestep a few agitating landmines who will aim to tilt the special teams seesaw away from the end that would appear to decidedly favor the Flyers. 
Superstitious as we are, we'd never start a series by disrespecting the opponent's ability to win it. But if the Devils do so, it will be as a decided underdog. They are not as good as the Penguins were, and the Flyers topped Pittsburgh in six games while New Jersey needed double OT in game 7 to outlast an artificially weighted Florida Panthers team. Take a look back at the first round though, around the league. Once the puck hits the ice, all bets are off, and being the favorite doesn't mean a damn thing. 
Upset the BalanceA huge reason for the Flyers' ability to advance out of the first round was their silencing of Evgeni Malkin for most of the series. Another series, another Russian to keep off the sheet. Ilya Kovalchuk is the guy whose contract was as laughable as it was illegal, the missing ingredient that ruined the stew, the man deserving of the nickname Kovalchoke. In 2010. He still posted numbers, but they rang hollow, and he disappeared for stretches of the Flyers' five-game series win in the 2010 postseason. 
But in 2012, with the Devils are playing a more attacking style of hockey while also posting a top-10 defense/goals allowed, Kovalchuk fit in better on his way to a 37-goal, 82-point season. Against the Panthers, the dangerous top line trio of Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Zach Parise (18 goals/36 pts in 40 career games vs PHI) combined for eight of the team's 18 goals. (Yes, they scored 18 goals in 7 games and won… Not quite the barn-burner we witnessed at the poles of Pennsylvania, huh?)
Kovalchuk is rumored to be playing hurt, but he still scored three times last series. He's not quite as self-destructive as Malkin proved to be either. We're looking forward to seeing Sean Couturier and Braydon Coburn try to stuff him in a sack over the next week-plus. 
To beat the Flyers, the Devils will need more of the balance they saw in the regular season. David Clarkson had 30 goals, but has yet to light the lamp in the postseason. Patrik Elias (33 goals/75 pts in 76 career games vs PHI) had 26 goals and 78 points, but scored only twice in the opening series, going completely silent in games four through seven. Adam Henrique emerged as a hero in game 7 last round, scoring a pair of goals and could be dangerous in round 2. 
Plus: Poni and ZubrusIn eight games against the Flyers this season (he got two more due to being traded from the Hurricanes), Alexei Ponikarovsky scored four goals. Since being traded away from Philadelphia, Dainius Zubrus has brandished the dagger 12 times against his former team, and while he hasn't been a dangerous threat in the playoffs since 2006, his size can still pose matchup problems. 
In the Flyers' quest to again silence the opposing top line, they'll have to be careful not to let a few dangerous scorers get loose from the Devils' second and third lines. Jersey's balance was somewhat dormant in the opening round, but it's still there. 
Special TeamsThe Devils boasted the league's best penalty killing unit in the regular season, stifling nearly 90% of all opposing power plays. The Flyers scored on more than half of their man advantage opps against a Penguins PK unit that ranked third in the regular season. This will surely be a matchup to watch, although when speaking with WMMR's Preston & Steve, Peter Laviolette warned that the regular season and opening round trends can be thrown out the window once a new series begins. The Devils showed why agains the Panthers, when their PK unit was picked apart by Florida's power play for nine goals on 27 opps. 
Again, they're still the unit that was amazingly stingy for 82 games, and their 15 shorthanded goals should be reason enough to think their first round woes may not continue in round two. We'll see.  
More Like 'Voljerkoff' Amirite?The Devil most likely to send the series into a special teams battle is Anton Volchenkov, who has a long history of agitating the Flyers. Remember the insanity he helped to cause while still a member of the Ottawa Senators in March 2010? 
Volchenkov will likely goad the Flyers into a few penalties, but also give a few of his own. He also checks in as the series favorite to land a suspension for intent to injure a far more talented player. 
Bryz vs BrodeurIn some ways, every playoff matchup comes down to which goaltender is better in the best-of-seven. Ilya Bryzgalov may have some games he wants back from the opening round, but he clamped down in the final two games, when his defense was much better than the previous four. New Jersey may have some serious weapons, but on paper, ice, stone, pavement, and any other surface, their offense is nowhere near as dangerous as the Penguins'. A week off may have helped with the pain of a chip fracture in his toe and a rumored hip injury, too. Plus, Bryz was dominant in three starts against the Devils this season. Small sample size, but it favors my argument, so I'm using it anyway. 
Martin Brodeur… Do we even need to say anything about Marty? He'll hear his name teased, taunts about his weight, and maybe even a few about his sister-in-law. But hopefully he'll also hear the deafening sound of the goal horn. This isn't the Panthers' attack, which gave Marty troubles in the opening round, and he's not the perennial Vezina favorite he once was. But did you see him in game 7? On a game-by-game basis, he can still play like a Hall of Famer, and he may steal a win or two in this series. The Devils will likely need him to. 
Call me crazy but I still like the Flyers' advantage in net for this series. You?
Overall…It's hard not to feel good about the Flyers' chances in this
series. But today, there's a possibility they come out a little flat after a long layoff. Hopefully the Pens series exorcised their afternoon-game demons too. If not, we know a crappy start won't sink the ship. The Flyers are in every game, regardless of the score after the first period. 
I might be trying to convince myself that the Devils are better than they are because I'm uncomfortable with how comfortable I feel. Sure they have more balance than they showed last series. But if you can believe it, so too do the Flyers. What happens if Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell start going off? JVR? 
The Flyers' firepower is among the best, if not the best, left in the playoffs. They clamped down on defense with the series on the line against Pittsburgh, and it appears they'll get Nick Grossmann back today. When it comes down to it, I'm more worried about the generic "anything can happen" nature of the NHL playoffs, regardless of opponent, than I am anything in particular the Devils bring to the table. 
If they lose this series, something will have gone massively wrong. 

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

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Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles (1-1) vs. Giants (0-2)
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -6


The Eagles try to jump out to a 2-0 start in NFC East play Sunday but host a desperate Giants squad whose season is already on the line in Week 3.

New York's record is in danger of falling to 0-3, which would seriously cripple whatever playoff hopes the franchise has. This is as close to must-win as an NFL game gets in September. However, the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense will be searching for answers against a hostile Eagles defense at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles enter the week with a 1-1 record after a tough loss in Kansas City. A win would not only push the club back above .500 on the year but also keep them ahead of the sticks so to speak in terms of the division standings.

Eli Manning at the Linc
The Giants' offense was broken long before the 2017 season got underway. New York hasn't eclipsed 19 points in any of the last eight contests, including playoffs — a stretch that runs through last December.

As if the unit didn't have enough problems, their quarterback will be walking into an environment where he's been notoriously awful. Since 2009, Eli Manning has completed 60.0 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Giants are 2-6 in those contests, and 4-14 in their last 18 meetings with the Eagles, period.

In other words, if Manning and his mates are going to get their season turned around, this would not appear to be the matchup to do it. Add in the fact the Eagles' defense looks like it has the potential to be a top-five unit, and New York's offense could be in for another long day.

Key matchup: Giants WR Odell Beckham vs. Eagles secondary
If the Giants get any kind of reprieve at all, it could come in the form of the numerous injuries in the Eagles' secondary. Defensive backs Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins have already been ruled out, and starting free safety Rodney McLeod is questionable. All three are dealing with hamstring injuries.

While this might sound favorable for the Giants' receiving corps, it remains to be seen whether that group will be able to take advantage. Three-time Pro Bowl selection Odell Beckham Jr. missed Week 1 with an ankle injury and was still limited in Week 2, finishing with four receptions for 36 yards against the Lions. Meanwhile, fellow wideouts Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd have been little more than window dressing in his absence, and tight end Evan Engram is a rookie.

It's going to be interesting to see which Beckham shows up, as he has the potential to raise the level of play of Manning's secondary targets as well. In particular, whether Beckham can get over the top of a gimpy McLeod — or whoever winds up in centerfield for the Eagles — could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Balance is important, but avoiding turnovers is essential
For all the talk about the Eagles' run-pass ratio this week, the real reason they failed to pull out a win over the Chiefs came down to something much simpler: turnovers.

The Eagles gave the ball away twice last week, on the road no less, which is a huge no-no. Both plays occurred in enemy territory, too, giving the opponent a short field — a Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return that led to a quick field goal (and cost the Eagles a possession), and a Carson Wentz interception that eventually wound up in a touchdown the other way. Meanwhile, Kansas City did not turn the ball over at all.

Sure, the Eagles need to commit to the ground attack. Even a bad running game has some benefits. But what really cost the team in a seven-point loss last Sunday were the giveaways.

No matter how many times the Eagles run or throw the football against the Giants, there is no excuse for giving a struggling offense more opportunities. Then again, that might mean handing the ball to LeGarrette Blount 20 times for three yards and a cloud of dust and playing the field-position game is the way to go here.

A chance to take a commanding lead
Don't expect anything to come easy. This is a rivalry game, against a team with its share of problems, but a championship-caliber quarterback and respectable defense. If the Giants can't get anything going on offense, the Eagles might be able to run away in this one, but more likely, it will be close.

That being said, if the Eagles can pull off the victory in front of their own crowd, they will be the first NFC East team to 2-0 in the division. The Giants will fall to 0-2, and Washington is sitting at 0-1. Only the Cowboys currently have a win as well and will be 1-0.

A win Sunday moves the Eagles to 2-1 on the season. More importantly, it would put them ahead of the curve in their division, which despite the potential for New York to fall out of the race early, looks like it will be very competitive as usual.