Bob's Winter Classic Start: Latest Chapter in Flyers Goalie History, But for the Best

Bob's Winter Classic Start: Latest Chapter in Flyers Goalie History, But for the Best

Peter Laviolette showed us last season and playoffs that he likes to go with the hot hand, which is a turn of phrase that obscures a more important truth—Lavvy rewards effort and benches malaise. For whatever reason, Ilya Bryzgalov has lapsed into a second major slump of the first half of the season, and while he was solid in between them, he wasn't the show stopper the Flyers were seeking when they inked him to a 9-year, $51 million deal this summer.

The good news is, as much as Lavvy may be sending a message to an underperforming player, his decision to start Sergei Bobrovsky also rewards someone who is playing well. This isn't merely change for the sake of change, nor a wakeup call to Bryz. Based on recent play, Bob gives the Flyers the best chance to get two points today. He confirmed that in his win over the Penguins to close out 2011.

We'll find out today whether it was the right decision in the short term, but will the long-term implications be positive or negative? One thing's for sure, it drew a reaction from Bryzgalov. Not necessarily the one the coach was hoping for…

What will the short- and long-term implications be?

As you know by now, Bryz broke the secret to the media yesterday. He did it with some self-deprecating humor, which is a story in itself.

Part of the story of Bryzgalov's stay in Philly so far has been broken confidence, with his "Lost in the Woods" quote marking one of the defining moments of the season. While self-deprecation can be enjoyable and endearing, it's not really something you're looking for in a goalie. In the crease, confidence reigns supreme.

Confidence does not appear to be something Bryzgalov has right now. We've talked a bit about his on-ice body language lately, a topic I'm not too fond of overanalyzing but couldn't help but observe. Yesterday, it was his spoken language that grabbed attention. Bryz posted a picture of a thermos and joked with the media that that's how he was preparing for his time on the bench.

Deflection? Certainly. And Bryz has so far been deft at keeping fans on his side despite being the ultimate target for Philly hockey criticism—a highly paid disappointment. His off-ice persona is interesting, amusing, and seemingly sincere. But as the pages turn on the calendar and expectations ratchet up, no amount of HBO footage will save him if his on-ice play does not improve significantly.

Lavvy's decision to start Bob sends a consistent message to his team. Play well and you will be rewarded. It also sends a message to Bryz and others that a big contract doesn't mean they'll start. If both messages are received loud and clear, this could prove to be a turning point for Bryzgalov. This is the right time to have that happen, rather than in four months.

However, Bryz's initial reaction—breaking the story rather than allowing it to be released when Lavvy wanted it to be—would indicate that the message may not yet have been received. The coaches have some work to do in getting Bryz's head on straight, and the player has the most work to do of all. The later into the season we get, the less funny the jokes will be.

On the other hand, Bryz's reaction could have been far, far worse. Being
benched in the highest profile game of the season can't be easy, and
joking about it is a much better response than complaining or
criticizing.

Messages aside, the spectacle of the Winter Classic will reach its height today at 3PM. However, the spectacle for the players needs to have ended yesterday. Alumni Game, family skates, marriage proposals—they're all fantastic, and it's refreshing to see athletes enjoy the lead-in to the Winter Classic. But it's about the two points in the standings for them now. Bob is the safer bet to get them two points today.

The front office will be scrutinized for the decision to give Bryzgalov the bank, not just this year but for years to come. That was a given the day they inked him. But they deserve credit for not doing what a lot of people thought they would in trading away Bobrovsky. In short, they made a risky investment, but they insured against it as well.

Injuries aren't the only reason a contending team needs a backup who can play like a starter. Goalies are often among the biggest headcases in all of sports. When they're off, they're way off. When they're on, they're nearly unbeatable. Bryz will get his swagger back. Until then, we can be glad that the Flyers can lean on the goalie a lot of people wanted to be the starter before free agency even began.

All this being said, we'd obviously prefer there to be no big story in goal as the league's attention turns to the Flyers.

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has undergone surgery on the right shoulder that's bothered him the past two seasons.

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced Thursday on Twitter that Luck was recovering from successful outpatient surgery. Irsay says Luck will be ready for the 2017 season.

Luck was listed on the Colts injury report throughout this season and missed several practices, with coach Chuck Pagano saying the team had a plan for keeping Luck healthy while he dealt with a sore throwing shoulder.

Luck missed two games early in the 2015 season because of the shoulder injury. He threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season after signing a six-year, $140 million contract in June.

Roethlisberger chasing Brady 
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible.

Their brief exchange before Brady and the New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in October provided a snapshot into a rivalry that never was. They bro-hugged. They lamented the left knee injury that forced Roethlisberger out the lineup on that warm late fall afternoon.

And then Roethlisberger made an uncharacteristic request : a signed Brady jersey to hang on the wall in Roethlisberger's home office next to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

"I consider him one, if not the best of all-time," Roethlisberger said.

A group Roethlisberger does not include himself in.

Not even with as many championships as Brady's longtime friend and occasional foil Peyton Manning (two). Not even with a spot in the top 10 in just about every major statistical category out there on Roethlisberger's still growing resume. Not even with a bust in Canton one day alongside Brady and the rest of the guys whose jerseys adorn the walls of his home almost assured regardless of what happens in Sunday's AFC title game.

The reason is simple: rings. Brady has four, including two he earned while carving a path through the playoffs that included victories in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004. Roethlisberger has two, neither of which required Roethlisberger or the Steelers to take out Brady along the way.

It's why Roethlisberger just shakes his head when asked if he's part of the "gold standard" label that he so eagerly attaches to Brady.

"Not as (his) level," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, with all the Super Bowls he has."

This weekend provides Roethlisberger his best - and maybe his last - chance to do to Brady what Brady has done to so many others over the last 16 years. Even if the last thing Roethlisberger wants to do is get pulled into the "star quarterback vs. star quarterback" narrative that fueled so many showdowns between Brady and Manning through the years.

"It's obviously bigger than the two of us," Roethlisberger said. "I know he is used to it, with the Peyton Manning and Tom thing. This is two football teams that have won championships. Us going against each other is more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out there to play a football game with 11 guys at a time."

Salute to service award finalists
HOUSTON -- Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva are the finalists for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.

The winner of the honor, presented by USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the league, will be announced during NFL Honors the night before the Super Bowl. Both Quinn's and Villanueva's teams, of course, are still in the running to play in that game on Feb. 5.

Quinn and Villanueva were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.

Last spring, Quinn hosted a "Rookie Club Olympics" for which he invited 100 military members from Fort Benning, Georgia to the Falcons' training facility to participate. He created the event as a way for NFL players and the military community to unite and work together as a team.

"The military represents team on the highest level," says Quinn, who in his second year as Atlanta's coach and has it hosting the NFC championship game Sunday against Green Bay. "It's an honor to be up for this award that recognizes the standard of excellence set by our nation's military and encourages our community to give back and support service members and their families who serve our nation."

Quinn also stages a military day at training camp and hosts 20 military members at each Falcons home game throughout the season. He also provided an opportunity for families of fallen soldiers with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to attend the Falcons' Salute to Service game on Nov. 27. All 63 families attending were given a VIP visit at practice and were provided a one-night hotel stay in Atlanta courtesy of Quinn. Each player wore the initials of a fallen hero on his helmet during the game and during practice; the families were given a replica helmet of that player with a personalized note in honor of their hero.

Last offseason, Quinn led four Falcons players on a weeklong USO tour through the Pacific.

Villanueva grew up as a military child, living in the United States and Europe, where he played high school football. He then attended West Point, where he was a tight end, and was commissioned in the Army in 2010.

Promoted to captain in 2014, Villanueva was deployed three times. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for heroism in combat.

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

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AP

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

STAMFORD, Conn. – January 19, 2017 – NBC Sports Regional Networks today announced an agreement with MLBAM to stream local market MLB games, as well as pre- and postgame shows, beginning with the 2017 regular season. This new streaming offering is available at no additional cost to authenticated pay TV subscribers of NBC Sports Group’s CSN regional sports networks (RSNs). This local initiative advances NBCUniversal’s implementation of “TV Everywhere,” which strives to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home, and on multiple platforms.

CSN’s local streaming allows authenticated viewers in their respective markets to live stream games and related programming that is carried by their pay TV provider of the Chicago Cubs (CSN Chicago), Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago), Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia), Oakland Athletics (CSN California) and San Francisco Giants (CSN Bay Area). Game broadcast schedules will be announced at a later date.

“This is a home run for our local sports fans,” said David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks, and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy. “We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our fans and provide comprehensive coverage of their favorite teams. With the addition of MLB in-market streaming rights, they don’t have to miss a pitch.”

The addition of MLB authenticated in-market streaming completes the local streaming portfolio for the NBC Sports Regional Networks, which also includes local NBA and NHL live streaming. The RSNs first introduced NBA streaming in 2014 and last fall announced the addition of NHL in-market streaming, beginning with the 2016-17 season. 

The NBC Sports Regional Networks now have partnerships for in-market streaming of the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s (CSN Bay Area/CSN California); Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago); Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals (CSN Mid-Atlantic); Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia); and Boston Celtics (CSN New England).

Authenticated CSN subscribers can access live MLB, NBA and NHL games, as well as other sports programming, anywhere in the United States.  During the 2017 MLB season, all in-market MLB games will be streamed on the respective local CSN regional network site on PCs as well as on the NBC Sports app—NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets and connected TVs. The NBC Sports app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.