Friday it was Cole Hamels making his much anticipated debut to lead the Phillies to a win. Saturday it was Jon Lieber flirting with perfection to shut out the Reds. And Sunday it was Ryan Howard, after spending the night in the hospital, coming off the bench to hit two homers to lead the Phillies to a win. Different players of the game, same winning result. 13 of 14 games is ridiculous. With the Phillies only 1 game back of division leading New York, who has St. Louis on tap, the Phillies are off to Milwaukee with a great chance to make up even more ground. The Phillies are on fire. Are you on board?
-Jimmy Rollins can play some D.
-Ryan Howard is a Beast
-Friday: Cole Hamels, a live blog of his first ever performance [BS&S]
-Saturday: Lieber almost perfect in win [Inky]
-Sunday: Howard Homers Twice, Phils win [Inky]
-Charles Barkley, along with Jordan and Magic, wants to buy an NBA franchise. [Deadspin]
-I wish people paid me insane amounts of money to leave my job. Larry Brown, best job in sports. [Deadspin]
-The Eagles had a little mini-camp, ending today, and Eagles.com is all over it. Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the mini-camp, Donovan McNabb got a haircut. Inky, picture 10.
-The Rocky blog has a new clip of the movie up. Eh. [RockyBlog]
-For those of you who miss Heather Mitts and A.J. Feeley. And I hate the Patriots with a passion, but Tom Brady does alright. [Sports Illustrated's Power Couples]
-I was on a flight Friday from Chicago to Philly with Eagles prospect Levonne Rowen. [Eagles.com]
-Bruins Sign Future Flyers All-Star to 3-Year Deal. [TheOnion]
NEW YORK — Ron Hextall admitted there’s a bit of a double-edged sword to Claude Giroux.
“I think he’s pressing too hard,” Hextall said before Sunday night’s game. “It’s what you like about him; there’s a few guys like that. You like that [competitiveness] about them, but sometimes you become your own worst enemy because they beat themselves up.”
The captain was entering the day with a goal drought of 12 games, his longest since Oct. 2-Nov. 7, 2013, when he opened the season goalless in 15 contests.
“G wants to be successful at everything,” the general manager said. “Hopefully something good happens for him and he gets rolling. He’s too good of a player to play like this.”
Hextall got his wish.
Nearly four hours later, Giroux buried the game-winning goal of the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime win against the Islanders at the Barclays Center. Not only did it relieve Giroux of his funk, but it also did the same for the Flyers, who had lost three straight and 12 of their last 15.
"It's been tough the last couple of weeks,” Giroux said. “We know we're a better team.
“Obviously we can still be better but we needed this win tonight.”
And Giroux needed that goal. Over the previous 12 games, the Flyers’ second-leading scorer was a minus-13 with seven assists and just one even-strength point. It’s no coincidence the Flyers went 2-8-2 in those 12 games.
Giroux didn’t disagree with his boss.
“You want to succeed and you want to play the best you can,” he said. “Sometimes you push it a little too much. When you sit back and kind of look at the big picture, sometimes I think that's when you kind of realize you need to relax and just go out there and play.”
Before the game, head coach Dave Hakstol made a change that reaped the rewards. He decided to put Jakub Voracek back on the top line with Giroux and Michael Raffl. Giroux finished with six shots, his most since Dec. 21, while Voracek put up four and assisted the overtime winner.
“Well, I mean there are a lot of things that go into that,” Hakstol said of the move. “Those guys have success together, but more importantly, you look at some of the combinations as you go through the year when you’ve had success. Sometimes one change gives you a little bit of a jump-start. Those guys did a good job.”
Giroux’s goal was emblematic in a way that he simply planted himself in front of the net and tapped in Shayne Gostisbehere’s wraparound pass. There was no highlight-reel deke or miraculous shot.
Keeping it simple — as players often say — did the trick.
"Sometimes you don't need to try so hard,” Giroux said. “You need to go about your job and make sure you do the right things out there. Make sure you help your teammates and linemates. Just go out there and play hockey. We're supposed to have fun doing it, right? So sometimes you need to relax and kind of look at how you can get better.”
Sunday was a start.
Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.
Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks.
"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."
The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. They're 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him.
Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.
Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.
CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.