Slow-starting Flyers and Rangers Fighting to Dig Out from Early Holes

Slow-starting Flyers and Rangers Fighting to Dig Out from Early Holes

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The Flyers exorcised some demons last Thursday, defeating
the New York Rangers for the first time in nine tries over nearly two full
calendar years. Now they must find a way to repeat their effort, or they risk slipping
into sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia and New York are currently tied at the bottom
with four points, although the Rangers have a game on their rival. One point
for an overtime loss would match either of them with the New York Islanders –the
Isles are in action tonight at the Pittsburgh Penguins however. Regardless of
what happens in that one, best-case scenario is the loser of this second tilt
between the Flyers and Rags remains entrenched in the cellar.

Is it too early to be worried about the standings? Perhaps, especially
with all five clubs separated by just three points – only the Northwest
Division is as tightly contested. That said the Flyers do need to be concerned about
falling into a hole in this shortened season, as they are already behind eight
teams in the Eastern Conference. Every point is magnified this year.

Last week’s 2-1 victory is probably still fresh in everybody’s
minds, as it was the type of game that can turn seasons around, even in these
early stages. If nothing else, the Flyers destroyed a lot of the mystique the
Rangers had built during their dominance over Philly. Instead of skating against
a narrative, tonight the orange sweaters can skate against their opponents.

That’s not all the Flyers busted up in a hard-hitting battle
that featured a few fights. They also held the Rangers’ struggling power
play in check. New York converted on one-of-four advantages, with Ilya
Bryzgalov and his mates fighting off a 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 consecutively in the
final half of the third period.

The Rangers are now ranked 27th in the NHL, scoring on just
9.1% of their power plays. Then again, the Flyers haven’t been much better,
coming in at 24th while lighting the lamp on 12.9% of their chances. Plus, the
opportunities should be there against Philly’s killing unit, which is coming up
with the stop only 69% of the time – good for 27th in the league.

They seemed to have found the on-switch after a huge 7-1
victory over a shorthanded Florida Panthers club over the weekend, scoring and
killing power plays alike. On the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back
however, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the Flyers right back to square one in
both areas during a 5-1 mauling.

It should be interesting to see which Flyers squad comes out
tonight. The good news is Bryz is back in net after taking Sunday off, and he
has looked very solid through five starts thus far. Zac Rinaldo also returns to
the lineup
for the Orange & Black, although it appears impressive rookie
Tye McGinn will be headed back to Adirondack to make room. Don’t worry, Tye – you’ll
be back, and you’ll always have this beatdown.

The bell sounds for this heavyweight fight from Madison
Square Garden at 7 p.m., and it’s a big one.

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Shortening overtime in the NFL is stupid

Shortening overtime in the NFL is stupid

Like when sporting events finish in a tie? Of course you do. That’s why the NHL scrapped ties in favor of a skills competition back in 2005, or why Major League Baseball awarded home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning side of an exhibition game for 14 years. Yeah, folks love ties.

Well, if you’re the type who enjoys a good tie or a long smooch with your sister, the NFL has a rule change made just for you. Because the end result of reducing overtime from 15 minutes to 10 during the regular season will inevitably be more contests that end without deciding a winner.

Why? The league offered some hollow-sounding excuse built around player safety and competitive balance. Teams that play an additional five minutes in the extra period, then turn around and play again on a short week -- think Monday to Sunday, or worse, Sunday to Thursday -- are at a disadvantage, while the health of the players are at greater risk.

Whether there was any tangible evidence five more minutes can really have a serious effect on the following week is unclear. It sure doesn’t seem like that would make a world of difference. The only thing we can say for certain is the end result will be more ties.

Even under the previous rule, the NFL managed to have two games end in ties in 2016, which are two more than anybody would prefer. Yet, four more games went deeper than 10 minutes into overtime, according to Jonathan Jones for Sports Illustrated, and while not all were necessarily guaranteed to finish in a tie under the change, the likelihood obviously increases.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say there were two more ties in ’16, bringing the total to four. That still isn’t a huge number, but even two is atypical. Most years, there are one, or none at all. Now, the frequency is guaranteed to increase.

Does that matter? Maybe not. A few extra ties are unlikely to turn off viewers. In fact, a case can be made overtime will be more exciting with the clock coming into play more often. Ties also lead to some interesting situations in the standings, and can inject slightly more intrigue into playoff races late in the year.

None of which is going to change the fact that ties are inherently a bad thing and people despise them. The NHL and MLB both came up with rule changes that would avoid ties, each of which had a major impact on the very landscape of the sports. Yet, while competitors are getting away from ties, the NFL has decided to invite more.

Again, it’s worth pointing out the reasoning seems bogus. If competitive balance and player safety are issues, teams wouldn’t have to turn around and play on Thursday four days after a Sunday game in the first place.

The NFL’s overtime rules were already imperfect. Shortening the length of the period is unlikely to fix inherent problems with the sudden-death system -- namely a team winning the game on the possession immediately following the coin flip. Instead, we simply have another round of valid complaints to look forward to on the horizon.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.