Flyers-Bruins Game 7: . . .

Flyers-Bruins Game 7: . . .

I really can't remember the last time the whole town was this excited about a single playoff game. The diehards are ready to explode, the casual fans have joined the party, and people who don't care ... well, they're mostly wondering why I keep wearing orange to work. But the build-up to this game over the past week, the anticipation of a series finale that could put the Flyers in the history books as just the third team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit...! You've heard all this before. It's all anyone's talking about today. 

Confidence is rarely this high for a team trying to pull off the type of win that is so unlikely that it only happens every 30+ years, but the Flyers' rattling off three straight wins despite a slew of injuries has us all pretty fired up. It also seems to have the Bruins fans worried about being on the wrong end of the trivia question. Can they pull it off? Of course they can, for a variety of reasons. But it's by no means a foregone conclusion that they're headed to the Conference Finals this weekend. 

Breaking down the first six games of the series, we shouldn't be too surprised that the Flyers were still alive after the first three games, which were of course all losses (unless we're focusing on the mounting-injury factor). They lost very evenly played games, earning them that "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln" sentiment of being on the losing end of just about the closest 3-0 series imaginable. Getting Simon Gagne back and letting the lines gel back together might have been just enough to tip the scales. But factor in those injuries to key forwards and, later, the goalie that dominated the Devils in the first round, and yeah, we're pretty shocked this series has a game 7. 

However, if you listen to the coach and the players, they don't seem to be surprised at all. Down three games, two, one, and even up, they've continued to prepare and practice for every one like they expected to win; even now, they're saying they need to play better than they have. 

Momentum or Microcosm?
One of the big questions tonight is whether the Flyers will benefit from the momentum of having won three straight, or if we're really looking at a one-game series now. The team is saying it's the latter, and that's probably the right way to prepare. Don't expect a repeat of game 5, which ended with an embittered crowed littering the ice and booing their team into the locker room, but know that it's definitely possible.

That was the fluke game in this series though. In game 6, the Bruins played much better, owning the better play for a good 25-30 minutes, including most of the second period when they were already down a goal. That fact could be the undoing of the currently popular line of thinking that the Bruins will shrink if the Flyers score first. I agree it'd be pretty awesome, and I think being scored on first in that particular building would be a lot worse than doing so on the road. But based on what we saw in game 6, this won't be a one-period game. 

To win like that again, they'll need to be able to weather the storm a second time, which is a lot harder than doing it once. However, if the Flyers find themselves down a goal, we've at least seen that they can put enough pressure on the very good defense of the Bruins to keep them in it barring a catastrophic scoring outbreak by Boston. 

Scoring just once in the past two games, they're either due or they're done. 

Battles
One of the matchups the Flyers are winning in this series is the Zdeno Chara-Mike Richards duel. Boston's giant has spent a lot of energy trying to control Richie, which has not only benefitted the Flyers' other lines by seeing them consistently facing Boston's lesser pairings—it also just hasn't worked. Richards has 8 points through 6 games, including 3 goals. Chara's still on the plus side on even strength, but as the series has worn on, he's increasingly looked like a man skating with a small tree in his hands (which isn't far from the truth). 

Meanwhile, after successfully muting the scoring stars of the Devils by putting their defensive efforts into the proverbial "taking away their time and space," the Flyers opened the second round against a team that doesn't have easily recognizable snipers like Ilya Kovalchuk. As such, it wasn't as easy to employ the same system and account for the likes of the dagger-wielders like Mark Recchi and Miroslav Satan in the first three games. But they've been able to do it since, tying up sticks and pressuring the puck carrier to force offside calls or turnovers, or otherwise keeping the play in their zone on the perimeter, without much garbage in front. 

Seeing a few Bruins join the injured Flyers in the press box didn't hurt either. 

The Leight Show
Hate to put the whole series and beyond on one guy's shoulders, but the fact is it often comes down to which goalie plays better and gets luckier. In just over a game and a half of playoff backstopping, Michael Leighton has been outstanding, and has only needed to be a little lucky. Keep that up, and the Flyers should be able to beat Rask a few times tonight and move on. 

I'm watching the game at home with some friends and a fridge full of beer. In the event of a win, you'll probably see a post consisting of a few words and maybe a picture. If not, well... Have a great weekend doing something other than watching hockey.

Predictions? At the start of the series, I called it for the Flyers in 7. I think I'll stick with that.

Game 7 Flyers art by reader Mike Brooks. 

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp are both back in the Phillies' starting lineup Monday in Miami after being hit by pitches over the weekend in Pittsburgh.

Franco was hit on the wrist and Rupp on the head. Franco hasn't started since Friday, but came in for Andres Blanco Sunday after Blanco fractured his left index finger.

Rupp was hit on the head Saturday but passes MLB's concussion protocol and is back behind the plate to catch Jeremy Hellickson in the Phillies' series opener against the Marlins.

It's a good thing for the Phils because both players have been power sources. Franco is hitting .259 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs, and Rupp is hitting .276 with 17 doubles and 10 homers. Rupp had a homer and three RBIs last Friday night in the Phillies' only win at PNC Park.

Slumping Peter Bourjos, just 4 for his last 36, moves down the eight-hole. Cesar Hernandez leads off.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

And for the Marlins:

1. J.T. Realmuto, C
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Derek Dietrich, 2B
7. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
8. Don Kelly, 1B
9. Jarred Cosart, P

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have promoted Tom Gamble to assistant general manager.

General manager Trent Baalke announced the move on Monday, calling Gamble an "accomplished talent evaluator."

Gamble returned to the 49ers in January 2015 as a senior personnel executive after spending two seasons in Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel. Gamble worked with current 49ers coach Chip Kelly during his time with the Eagles.

Gamble had spent eight seasons previously in San Francisco and was director of player personnel in his final two seasons. Gamble is entering his 29th season in the NFL.

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

CLEVELAND — Josh Gordon's curious and complicated career has taken a new turn.

He's getting yet another chance.

The talented but troubled wide receiver has been reinstated on a conditional basis by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who met face to face with Gordon last week and said he believes the 25-year-old can "make the right choices" going forward.

Gordon has been banned since February 2015 for multiple violations of the league's drug policies. He will be suspended for the first four games of the 2016-17, but he's allowed to join the team in its upcoming training camp and can participate in meetings and conditioning work. The league said once Gordon meets clinical requirements, he can take part in preseason activities, including practices and games.

It's a fresh start for Gordon, who emerged as one of the league's rising stars in 2013 before several missteps led to his banishment.

As long as he stays clean, Gordon, who met with Goodell in New York on July 19, is eligible to return to the team on Oct. 3. During his four-game suspension, Gordon may participate in team meetings and other activities but can't practice or play in games.

Gordon was suspended 10 games in 2014 and the entire 2015 season for substance violations, a pattern that began during his college career at Baylor and Utah. He was denied reinstatement in April after failing a drug test because of samples that also tested positive for marijuana.

In a letter to Gordon, Goodell made it clear the onus is on the 25-year-old former Pro Bowler to stay clean.

"As we discussed at our (July 19) meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed," Goodell said. "Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, (owner) Jimmy Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so."

The Browns open training camp on Friday under first-year coach Hue Jackson, who has mostly steered clear of discussing Gordon or his future.

The team has not yet commented on Gordon's conditional reinstatement.

Gordon broke out in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns and averaged 117.6 yards per game.

With his future unclear, the Browns selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round of this year's draft.