Flyers-Bruins: Winter Classic Revenge Much?

Flyers-Bruins: Winter Classic Revenge Much?

Now that the Flyers have dusted off a few wins against the dregs of the conference, it's time to see how they look against teams that are in or near their weight class. The final two games of this homestand are against current playoff teams, tonight against the Bruins, who have slid all the way to the eighth seed, and Saturday against Chicago, the top seed in the West. Get out your measuring sticks.  

The Bruins have won two of their five games since the break, oddly enough against two of the three teams the Flyers have beaten since then (NYI, TOR). They also went into the break on a four-game winning streak, just like the Flyers, so they can't be too thrilled going 2-2-1 especially with that OTL coming against the Leafs. Tonight, it's two teams whose seasons haven't gone as planned so far, both of whom still have the opportunity to make up for that with a strong finish and hot entrance into the playoffs. 

That and the fact that these teams hate each other should make for a pretty entertaining game. 

The Flyers say that there will be no lineup changes tonight, which is especially fortunate considering the fact that three guys had to leave the last game with lacerations. You've probably heard that Marc Savard will miss this one. Matt Cooke's headshot heard 'round the world may have even ended Savard's season. Whether that hit was actually dirty within the current rule book is a matter of great disagreement (feel free to leave your opinion). There's no word yet as to whether Zdeno Chara will play; the giant is listed as a day-to-day after being affected by a LBI and missing Tuesday's game, but he did participate in the morning skate today. 

The Boston goalie situation hasn't been announced yet either. After giving bags of money and an extension to Tim Thomas after the journeyman (and silver medalist!) won the Vezina Trophy, the B's have seen Tuukka Rask start 26 games this season and post a better record, GAA, and save percentage than the Tank. Rask has been on the shelf with a knee injury lately, with Thomas starting the last four games.  

The Flyers aren't playing their best hockey right now, but they're still winning games. There's definitely something to be said for that—finding a way to win (even if it's against weak teams). But will that trend continue as the quality of comp picks up, followed by a four-game road trip? Or, can the Flyers just get back to the 60-solid-minutes brand of hockey we've seen them play for a few stretches this season? 

Updates: Rask will start, Chara is in the lineup. 

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.