Recap: Ho-Hum... Game 1.

Recap: Ho-Hum... Game 1.

A lot of you were prepared for this.  I read it in the comments here and on other hockey forums.  You kept telling yourself “After ten minutes, I’ll know which team shows up for this game.”  You were referring to the Jekyl and Hyde that is the Philadelphia Flyers.  Would the team that backed into the playoffs while losing home ice and seeming disinterested face the Penguins in Game 1 of Round 1, or would the tenacious team with 6 twenty plus goal scorers that beat the Penguins and Devils a few weeks back show up?  That answer can be derived from the 4-1 final score in favor of the Penguins.  But along with that sobering bit of bad news, there’s always a silver lining.

Truth be told, you didn’t have to wait 10 minutes to know which Flyers team was set to face the Penguins.  At 4:41 of the first period, the most hated of all Flyers killers, Sid the Kid, notched a power play goal that will be scrutinized for quite some time.  It all began with Malkin dishing a pass out front to a cutting Crosby.  Sid kicked the puck from his skate to his stick, past Biron, off the post… back off Biron and into the net. 

“Upon further review, the puck was not kicked in with a distinct kicking motion.”  This was Van-whosit-whatsits’s call that gave the Pens the early lead.  First of all, if there was no distinct kicking motion, you’re fooling yourself.  I’ve read quite a few post-game comments from Pittsburgh fans saying it was a hockey stop or it was directing, not kicking.  Crosby was KICKING the puck to his stick with the intentions of shooting the puck in.  Now, as a Flyers fan who thinks the goal wasn’t good… you’re also delusional.  While Donnie Van-Mass might have given an invalid or incorrect reason for the goal standing, word from the War-Room and further inspection gave alternative reasons for the 1-0 lead.  Some say it hit his stick “ever so gently.”  The rest of you will take notice of the puck hitting the post and then nicking off of Biron’s pad and going in.

What may have been more controversial was the call that gave the Penguins the power play to begin with.  Aaron Asham, at the end of his shift tapped the arm of a passing Penguin and was called for hooking.  When Billy Clement says its weak, you know its weak.  But regardless, when you’re the most penalized team in the league, you gain a reputation, and all those seeds the Flyers planted during the regular season are appearing to bloom.  Despite the fact they didn’t show up till late in the first period and despite the fact they took three minor penalties, the Flyers left the 1st down by one goal.

I have to say that I was more impressed with the Penguins’ third line than the ones that were centered by the league’s top two points getters.  Staal in particular gave the Flyers fits throughout the game and skilled pest Tyler Kennedy scored on a 3 on 1 to make the score 2-0.  The second period was actually a good one for the Flyers and as it progressed it seemed the ice was slowly but surely tipping in their favor.  But a common theme of the Flyers’ season returned in the form of bad bounces and bad penalties.  Any time the team gained momentum, something would happen to force them back on their heels.  One instance in particular, a goalie interference penalty on Scott Hartnell comes to mind.  To be completely honest… I thought this one was also weak.  Hartnell crashed the net and got a decent shot off, and was shouldered into “MAF” by Kris Letang.  In retrospect, I wish Hartsy had gotten a little more bang for his buck, knowing that his team would eventually lose the game.
Mike Knuble’s attempted wrap around the boards paved the way for Pittsburgh’s third goal, basically ending the game.  The puck took a funny bounce right out in front of a bewildered Biron.  The league’s top scorer and potential MVP was there to collect it, delay, and slip a backhander into the yawning net.  This came just after the announcers had mentioned that they HADN’T mentioned Malkin’s name in forever, which further solidifies the point that both Crosby and Malkin, each with an goal and assist, didn’t have their best games.  And they didn’t need to.  Add former Flyer/current Penguin Mark Eaton’s goal for good measure, and you have a 4-0 game.

Mike Richards provided the only real Flyers offensive threat in this game, which kinda reminds you of the way last year’s eastern conference final ended up.  All told, he hit three posts, with the last one leading to a power play rebound shot and score by Simon Gagne.  Yay… no shutout for the Pens fans to boast over.  Throw in a smidge of final minute tomfoolery and penalties and that was pretty much the game.

Bad News
Kimmo Timonen looked gimpy, courtesy of a Charlie horse from early in the game.  You have to know he’s a target of the Pens forecheckers, just like Gonchar will be for ours.  To see him limping around EARLY in the first period was not a good sign.  Another concern for the Flyers has to be that both Crosby and Malkin had okay games, but are both capable of much more damage.  That being said, Philadelphia STILL lost the game 4-1.  Not a good sign.  The biggest bit of bad news I received was when I watched Game 2 of the Vs double header, Vancouver/St. Louis.  If you wanted to see what playoff intensity means, watch that game.  It was physical, fast, and exciting.  I realize the score was not in our favor last night, but even more than that, the game wasn’t all that interesting.  This malaise that the Flyers have suffered from during their most inconsistent stretches in the regular season was present in Game 1.

Good News
The Flyers lost game one in all three series last year.  Two of them they went on to win.  Also, there is room for improvement.  It isn’t like the Flyers played their best game and still couldn’t beat the Penguins.  They played a so-so game and for the most part were losing by 2 goals.  I also thought the play of Biron was somewhat encouraging.  Three of the four goals he has absolutely no chance, with the second goal trickling through his five hole.  Replays show the puck deflected off Matt Carle, but you’d still like to see Marty keep it 1-0 at that point.  Biron faced a lot of shots from the Pens in the slot and was up to the task.  It must be encouraging to say “Biron didn’t lose us game 1…”  right?  

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

After watching his club get smacked around in a 9-4 loss to the Mets on Friday, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has tinkered with his lineup for Saturday's game at Citi Field.

Odubel Herrera moves up to the two-hole after hitting sixth Friday, while Aaron Altherr goes from second to third and Jimmy Paredes gets the start in left and bats seventh. Ryan Howard starts again at first base and bats fifth.

Herrera, who has been struggling since the All-Star break with a .257 average, has lost his leadoff spot to Cesar Hernandez but is starting to find his swing again.

In the last seven days, Herrera is 5 for 17 with a double and a run scored. In August, the centerfielder is hitting .288 two homers and five RBIs.

Altherr, who played left field Friday, moves over to right field and Peter Bourjos gets the night off. Altherr is hitting .255 with four home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.

Here is the full Phillies lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

For more on tonight's's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Despite the Soul leading by three touchdowns early in ArenaBowl XXIX, there was little cheering from the their bench.

Given the volatility that is Arena League football and the frequency from which teams can strike, the approach remained resolute and determined. Defensive tackle Jake Metz kept the mindset of a scoreless game and could not stop hearing words coming from Ron Jaworski, a highly vocal partner in the Soul’s ownership.

“He kept yelling that offense gets headlines but defense wins championships,” said Metz, who currently lives in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, and went to Shippensburg University. “That resounded with me, and brought the championship.”

Metz and his defensive teammates then went out and shut down a highly hazardous and explosive Arizona Rattlers offensive unit en route to a 56-42 win (see story). Led by quarter Nick Davila, the only three-time MVP in Arena Football League history, the Rattlers could manage only seven points in a critical fourth quarter.

At the same time, Metz recovered a fumble by Davila with the Soul holding a slim six-point margin with just under six minutes to play. That turnover was the key point in the Soul’s eventual win, and cemented the role of the defense as a shut-down unit.

On the subsequent possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike. That created a 14-point comfort zone and the final margin of victory.

“These players deserve this championship,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “This is a first class organization and ownership gives the players a first-class experience. That way, we can attract great players, and with great players comes success.”

In capturing the league title Friday night, the victory was the second in franchise history. In 2008, the Soul and Phillies each won championships, and that was the last time a professional team captured a title in Philadelphia.

Metz remembers the Phillies' win over the Rays, and pointed out, “I went to those games as a kid.” That championship stuck with the 6-foot-6, 265 pounder, and helped to forge a championship mentality.

Early in the fourth quarter, Arizona caught the Soul at 42-42. From that point, Raudabaugh directed two scoring drives, and along with Metz’s important fumble recovery, carried the Soul to the title.

“It’s all about how you respond,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 20 for 36 for 278 yards and six touchdowns. “Granted, they have a very explosive team, but we were never out it. They did come back, but we had an answer for them.”

The answer was a strong defense which Dolezel indicated was playing at their peak just prior to the title game.

Defensive back Tracy Belton, the AFL defensive player of the year and DB Dwayne Hollis, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game was another key defensive play, clearly showed how a defense can carry a team to a league title. That was the effort the Soul brought together in an environment as unpredictable as the Arena Football League.

NFL Notes: Romo has broken bone in back; Kaepernick protests anthem

NFL Notes: Romo has broken bone in back; Kaepernick protests anthem

FRISCO, Texas -- Tony Romo is out with yet another back injury and it's unknown when he will return, although Dallas coach Jason Garrett says he expects his star quarterback to play this season.

Garrett said Saturday that Romo sustained a broken bone in his back when he was hit from behind by Seattle's Cliff Avrill and slid awkwardly on the third play of a preseason game.

Romo tried to get back into Thursday's game and said afterward that he was OK. But Garrett said the 36-year-old woke up Friday with stiffness, and an MRI revealed Romo's fourth back injury in less than four years. The injury will not require surgery.

Garrett wouldn't rule out Romo for the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the New York Giants. Rookie Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick who has had a strong preseason, is the presumed starter, although Garrett wouldn't acknowledge that either (see full story).

49ers: Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team's bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media .

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Saturday that "players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem."

The 49ers issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick's stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem (see full story).

Falcons: Free agent S Dashon Goldson works out with team
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons have given a workout to veteran free-agent safety Dashon Goldson, the former Redskins starter.

The Falcons will be without rookie safety Keanu Neal, the projected starter, for at least the first two regular-season games with a right knee injury.

Coach Dan Quinn said Saturday that backup Kemal Ishmael would fill in for Neal as the starting strong safety even if the team signs Goldson, 31. General manager Thomas Dimitroff says Goldson also has interest from other teams.

The Falcons cut nine players, including backup quarterback Sean Renfree, to reach the roster limit of 75 players on Saturday (see full story).