Flyers Drop 60-Minute Shootout, Down 1-0 in Cup Finals

Flyers Drop 60-Minute Shootout, Down 1-0 in Cup Finals

The Flyers were unable to complete the perfect day for local sporting interests, with Roy Halladay hurling a perfect game in Florida, team USA besting Turkey at the Linc, and the Union winning in extra time in Houston. The most important game of the day had the only bad result, with the Flyers losing an end-to-end battle in Chicago, 6-5. And I'd have traded all of the above for a Flyers win in game 1. 

We knew the series would be unpredictable, and game 1 certainly was. Two outstanding defenses with good goaltending combined to allow 11 goals in a ping pong match in which the longest lead was the one that iced the game. Neither team led by more than a goal at any time, which is something else considering the high tally by each side. 

Also surprising was that most of the top scorers from both sides were held at bay in terms of lighting the lamp. The Flyers were able to mute the powerful top line of the Blackhawks, but the second and particularly the third line were able penetrate the defense and find holes in Michael Leighton. Leights was pulled in the game despite most of the goals not being his fault. Peter Laviolette was probably trying to wake up his team on defense when he made the move to Brian Boucher because Leighton had little chance on the Blackhawks' conversions. The softest goal of the game came against Boucher, and my guess is Leighton will start in game 2. Was it a critical mistake to take Leights out at that point?

A story largely ignored by the broadcast team but prevalent throughout the game was the benching of Ryan Parent. Parent logged all of 41 seconds in this game, on the ice for an early goal that ended his night. Chris Pronger logged more than 32 minutes and managed a plus-2 in the game, and the top two pairings assumed all of the ice time, with Lukas Krajicek subbing in for 7 sporadic minutes. Lavvy clearly doesn't trust his third pairing against the powerful Chicago forwards, and we'll likely see more of the same for the rest of the series, if not a scratching of Parent. 

On the bright side, the Flyers were able to expose the Chicago defense and Antti Niemi for five goals, and it wasn't pretty for Niemi. He is certainly beatable in this series, and a slightly better game on defense for the Flyers would have meant a win. 

Still, the Blackhawks responded well after being hit hard by the Flyers attack early, and they settled in to take control of a freakish game. 

The Flyers scoring was largely generated by their second line, with Scott Hartnell wreaking havoc around the crease, Danny Briere setting up three goals and assisting on another, and Ville Leino continuing to draw attention on his way to a goal and an assist of his own. To say this line had a great game is an understatement. 
 

The Richards line was a disappointment overall, and Braydon Coburn turned over a game-changing play in failing to keep the puck in the zone on the powerplay, then trailing the play meekly while the Blackhawks hung another one on Leighton. The good news is the Flyers now know they can score on Chicago, and Niemi did not hold them at bay. They were able to get in close on him and convert for what should have been plenty of goals to win in a finals game. However, they simply didn't play the disciplined team defense they've displayed in their wins to this point, and their goaltending wasn't a strength despite not being particularly terrible. The Chicago game-winner was pretty painful though... 

This wasn't a hang-your-head loss. It was a tough, wild game against a stacked opponent, and it was in their barn to boot. It could have been a whole lot worse, and the Flyers are very much in this series after game 1. You have to think the Richards line will rebound after a subpar showing in this game, but so too will the Toews line. It'll be interesting to see if both sides continue to allow a run-and-gun tempo in game 2 and beyond. 

Oddly enough, the Flyers were not whistled for a penalty in this game. They scored once on four powerplay opportunities and were doused with a shorthanded goal. With 6 goals against overall, they were fortunate to not have have spent a minute facing Chicago's powerplay unit. 

The Flyers are no strangers to being down a game if not more, so there's no reason to make your way to the area bridges. Do not count them out; we've seen them overcome more, and this wasn't that bad of a loss. 

NBC probably had no complaints, huh?

(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.