Flyers Game Day News and Notes: The Skating Wounded and the Relentless Pursuit of Tired Criticisms

Flyers Game Day News and Notes: The Skating Wounded and the Relentless Pursuit of Tired Criticisms

No matter which reports you believe, it's good to hear that injured forwards Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere are increasingly healthy. Most seem to agree that Lappy could return soon, including Paul Holmgren, who yesterday put his timetable ahead of that of Carter. CSN sources today have game 4 as a possible return date. My take is you may as well be reading tea leaves if you want to know the status of an injured player in the NHL playoffs. 

Lappy has been cleared for contact and has skated, albeit while wearing a helmet with added padding and a face shield. (No it isn't the one at the left, but it's hard to believe we've had two different major facial injuries with which to use that gag pic of Lappy this season.) An interesting question emerges if and when Carter and Laperriere are ready to play again—who gets scratched? Andreas Nodl has stepped up nicely on the fourth line, but I think it's fairly obvious he gets to watch from the press box when Lappy is cleared to play. Nothing at all against Nodl either, just the way it goes. 

Carter's a much different story, and there's also the matter of the vandalized Montreal reporter's car. 

The forward lines are clicking well right now, and Ville Leino has contributed nicely in his time with a few different line sets. He'd be damn hard for Peter Laviolette to bench right about now. Not all that coincidentally, Scott Hartnell—whose benching was called for by many fans who wanted to see more of Leino down the stretch of the regular season—has really become a force in the last handful of games. Lavvy has never shown much inclination to bench Hartnell for a full game, although Hartnell did spend a period on the pine in these playoffs just before his resurgence started. 

Not only is there the question of which forward to scratch for Carter, but also how to set the lines if and when he returns. We're talking about a good problem to have here. Carter and Lappy are impact players, and when they went down along with Gagne, many of us believed Lappy was the biggest loss of the bunch because his role is so irreplaceable on this team. 

I'm basically going to punt on "who to scratch" question for Carter for now because I don't think the decision will need to be made imminently, and a whole lot can happen before it does. The Flyers winning. They've won five games in a row, with the fifth being the most convincing of the lot. There's no need to rush a player back, as opposed to when Simon Gagne got healthy in a hurry with the Flyers facing certain elimination in the second round. If the Flyers do get into trouble this series, the decision-making scenario on personnel should likely be a lot different than it is coming off of a 6-0 thrashing. Finally, as we're all well aware by now, another forward could get hurt at any time. With neither player cleared to return, the only pressing issue is winning game 2. 

The Flyers have really stepped up in the heart department to fill the Lappy void we weren't sure they could. They've also ratcheted up the scoring, and done so against two previously hot goalies. Hopefully that continues and there will be little rush to get these guys back on the ice.

Pot Kettle Powderkegs
Apparently a Montreal media member had his vehicle vandalized during game 1. I'm not going to get too deep in the manure on this one; if a reporter's car was vandalized, that sucks. Please don't do that. 

But I did find it groan-inducingly predictable that the opportunity was taken to make sweeping generalizations about any city's fanbase over a single incident once again (and a little odd that he didn't include pictures of said damage). After respectably including some references to the fact that just last series, the Montreal faithful tore up storefronts in their own city and looted, the reporter goes on to call Flyers fans are the ones in "Relentless pursuit of idiocy." I'm sorry that his car was vandalized, but the stuff he cites on the Flyers fan docket sounds a lot more isolated than the history the whole league knows Montreal fans have (link via Puck Daddy). 

Finally, he leans on the tired crutch of Santa Claus references. He made two of them, one his opener, and the second to close it out. They looted LAST WEEK in Montreal. The fanbase with the most Cups by far (although not as many recently) had to have the riot police brought in with tear gas and pepper spray because they advanced to the conference finals. The Santa Claus thing happened FOUR DECADES ago, and it was at an entirely different sport a little more than a year after the Flyers first came into the NHL. Trust me, isolated groups of Flyers fans have done a lot worse booing Santa, and a lot more recently. Same goes for most sporting cities, small towns, and anywhere else one group of people pits itself against another.

It's unfortunate if anything happened to his car, but rabble-rousing lines like the ones that begin and end the column evoke a picture of a guy grinning at the prospect of his next column, rather than sympathy for the plight of getting back into Canada wit'out a license plate. 

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

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Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”