Flyers Need a Turnover Intervention. Intervention!

Flyers Need a Turnover Intervention. Intervention!

With the Hurricanes, Devils, Caps, and Pens on the schedule to start the season, a 3-1-0 record is perfectly acceptable. But, I'm pretty sure most of us would rather that loss be to any of those other teams. Hell, I'd rather be 2-2 and have one of the wins be against the Pens.  

After the jump, we'll dispatch with any excuse-making. (Then we'll talk about a possible biting and watch a video of Chris Pronger throttlin' him a Penguin.)

The depth we saw on the 3rd and 4th lines in the first three games was washed away without JVR and Betts in the lineup. No excuse... If everyone's healthy except two lower line forwards, even though both are big special teams contributors and more than solid at even strength, that's still fairly normal in this league. And anyway, no one's blaming Arron Asham or Riley Cote for this one. Weak penalty gripes? No excuses... The call on Briere :14 into the game was an annoying reminder of what the league loves—powerplays and more powerplays, but the ensuing goal also wasn't the reason the Flyers lost. The Penguins were whistled for more PIM in the game anyway. Overall, despite the close 5-4 final score, the Flyers just flat out blew this one. 

Although they did keep it interesting... 

Braydon Coburn will draw the fans' ire in the wake of this loss, especially those of us who have maybe had a few HopDevils. He coughed up a couple of pucks that resulted directly in Pens markers, including an autogoal.

After seeing turnovers result directly in Ovechkin goals on Tuesday, and a mess of flubs tonight, let's hope it's not an enduring trend. 

Ray Emery was left high and dry a few times, and he didn't have his best game with him tonight to match the fleury flurry. 

At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury gave up four goals of his own, but overall, way too many of the Flyers' shots were benign. Good news is, his chest will probably be sore tomorrow, and his glove got a lot of action. 

A couple of positives on the night: Danny Briere picked up two more goals, both from in tight. Jeff Carter also had a good night on the score sheet, tallying two goals and two assists. The scoring depth is there again this year, but it wasn't enough tonight. Honestly, it wasn't as close as the score would indicate. Any time the Flyers seemed to pick up momentum, the Pens scored like it was a free happy hour at Bootleggers. 

Mike Richards played hard, coming up with some big hits and clearly trying to steal back the game's energy. After the Flyers had scored with the goalie pulled, they threw everything they could at MAF, including Richards, head-first. The ensuing scraps are gonna make the rounds tomorrow. Update: They already are

First, Kris Letang claims, well... he doesn't publicly claim anything specific. But, it's assumed he told the refs that Scott Hartnell bit his hand. Hartnell says he didn't. While that was going on, Chris Pronger was ripping former teammate Chris Kunitz away from the action by his gruff. Almost have to feel bad for Kunitz, who just looked scared. 

It's gonna be a crazy season series, that's for sure. That's fun and all, but at least for the first game, the off-season moves aimed at putting the Flyers ahead of the Penguins haven't achieved that goal. Chris Pronger had a solid game at both ends, and Sidney Crosby was held off the score sheet. Malkin had a goal and an assist though, and for most the game, the Flyers couldn't match the Penguins' tenacity with and without the puck. 

We'll keep you posted on any developments stemming from the last half-second of the game.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
 
Then he got just nine carries. 
 
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries. 
 
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews. 
 
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that's something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it's something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. 
But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
 
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks. 
 
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier. 
 
“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
 
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 
 
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. 
 
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore? 
 
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”