Boosh on a Forgettable Day, Phillies' Record April, Akers' Numbered Days, Union Atop the Table

Boosh on a Forgettable Day, Phillies' Record April, Akers' Numbered Days, Union Atop the Table

Three Philly teams were playing home games yesterday afternoon, two of which ended in good results, while the other was something of an absolute travesty. Unfortunately, the latter was the one that mattered most. Here's a look at some of the storylines out of those games, as well as the Eagles draft weekend.

Let's start it off with a quotable that pretty much sums up the Flyers' 7-3 loss, even it misleadingly seems to harness the speaker with more than his fair share of the blame. Here's Brian Boucher when asked about the specifics of two of the goals he allowed:

“I let in so many I can’t remember the third one, I can’t recall right now."

Boosh would also say he didn't think anyone played particularly well, which is a more apt representation of the game than hanging it on the goaltending, which of course could have been better as well. Four goalie changes in eight games is embarrassing no matter who's at fault. [Mike Morreale, NHL.com]

So the Eagles drafted a kicker with a fourth round pick yesterday. Hoooo boy... Much, much more after the jump.

First, does this mean David Akers is gone? I'd have to presume so, although Reuben Frank quotes both Andy Reid and Akers' agent as being non-committal. Along with Akers' contract situation and a rocky end to the season between the longest tenured Eagle and the front office, it's hard to imagine the Eagles opening camp with this proven veteran competing against the guy they used a valuable pick to select. If ever there was a Reid quote I don't buy, it's this one when asked about the impact of selecting Alex Henery on Akers' future as an Eagle:

“Well listen, I haven’t even gone there with [general manager] Howie [Roseman],” Reid said. “But I will tell you that [Henery] is a good kicker. And so we’ll talk about that as we go here.”

That's either complete bullshit or an indication that the Eagles throw darts to make their draft choices. We've heard some of the former from the head coach in recent years, and the latter is seemingly far from true whether you agree with their choices or not. If anything, they are very deliberate, and I respect that about their drafts. I also don't really care that Reid isn't forthcoming with his quotes on what the team's intentions are with its as-yet unsigned players. It does them no good to show all their cards, and it's foolish (although somewhat understandable) for us to expect them to. But I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this one. So uh... before the draft, you didn't talk to the GM about which players you want to keep and which you want to replace? Come on Big Red...

Read more on the Akers story here, but I leave you with one thought that's troubled me more than simply losing Akers, a guy I like a lot and wish would retire as an Eagle. What are the chances this guy ends up kicking field goals for a division rival next season?

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Now some more positive news... The Phillies beat the Mets again, earning a series win before tonight's Sunday Night Baseball matchup. Roy Halladay was brilliant, throwing his first 18 pitches for strikes (most by a pitcher to start a game since 1991) and efficiently working his way through yet another complete game. It's kinda funny how much hemming and hawing there is about the Phillies this season, what's wrong with them, etc... Looking back from the vantage of the first day of May, the Phillies just posted their highest April win total in franchise history. Matt Gelb has a look at yesterday's game and how it was representative of the entire month for the Phils. [Inquirer] [Other Phils April highlights]

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In the aftermath of drafts, we're often treated to a lot of stories written by guys who have never seen their subject play a snap. That's fine, understandable given how much college football they'd have to watch in order to be experts, all while covering their NFL beats. But I still love reading up on the new guys, both the scouting reports of their on-field play, and the looks at their background stories, which give a little color to the new guys. Like how the babyfaced Danny Watkins has a nasty streak that includes chopping people in the jugular, and Temple product Jaiquawn Jarrett's mom—a Rikers Island corrections officer—may be to Birds games what Allen Iverson's mom was to the Sixers

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The Union earned a 1-0 win the hard way yesterday down at PPL Park, playing much of the match with only 10 men. I'll have more to say on this game and the team in a later post, but here's the winner off the foot of Sebastien Le Toux, as shot from The River End:

Did you happen to hear the discussion in the beginning? Sent in by Level reader and commenter Muscles, who had to cut the video short because he's one of the guys who starts the rollout after a goal. The Union currently lead the MLS in points, and despite the lack of scoring, it's looking like it's no fluke.

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First Pippa steals the show at the Royal Wedding, and now the Phanatic: 

Via the incomparable Mr. Todd Zolecki.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent – hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in – he’ll try to put me in – to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel the only one of the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”