Road to the Winter Classic: Flyers in Tampa

Road to the Winter Classic: Flyers in Tampa

Yesterday, Enrico and I sat in on a conference call with Chris Pronger as part of the media prelude to the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. Pronger was affable and responsive, but also pretty honest about the fact that he doesn't know what exactly this team needs to do to get out of their funk. If he knew that, he said, he'd have told everyone already. 

When the league's deepest scoring team from last season suddenly can't find the back of the net for weeks, it's much more difficult to pinpoint the problem than it is when they're just getting shelled, which on most nights, they're not. Pronger did echo the sentiments aired by Peter Laviolette recently—that the team just needs to find a way to have fun, probably not meaning in a goofing around sense, but rather to not press so much and overthink their shortcomings.  

What better stage for having some fun than playing an outdoor game, and on the field at Fenway Park at that? Pronger did say he thinks that setting and excitement could be just what they need, but he quickly pointed out that they need to start winning during the four games they have leading up to that, a road trip that starts tonight in Tampa. He's right too—they can't afford to keep losing or wait 'til the new year to get a fresh start. Take a look at this tidbit, tweeted by Ryan Bright earlier today:

 

At just six points below the mark of the current 8th seed, it may not take 30-16-1 to get in this season—but if Lavvy has a cardboard stripper in the locker room right now, she'd better be wearing 30 tear-off patches, if not more. 

Michael Leighton will get the start in net for the Flyers, which doesn't exactly fill our hockey pants with confidence. Leighton wasn't quite good enough to stick with the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently have the highest goals against average in the NHL (the Flyers are 10th, which is pretty lousy as well). Can he steal a win tonight, or at the very least keep it close enough for the Flyers to eek one out? More than Leighton's own play, it'll depend on what the skaters in front of him can do. If they get shutout or light the lamp just once or twice, Leighton won't be the reason they lose, even if he gets torched. Boosh should be able to return after the short Christmas break, and Johan Backlund has been called up (or down, geographically speaking) to make sure the door on the bench stays shut during play. Darroll Powe will come off the injury list tonight, while Riley Cote and Mike Pyorala will watch the game from the suites (which begs the question—if you're a healthy scratch, can you have a few beers up in the box?).  

Just like the Flyers, the Lightning are staring through the glass at the Eastern Conference's playoff teams, but they're closer to breaking through, which is a huge sign of just how awful the Orange & Black have been lately. The Lightning aren't a good team, and their building smells like human waste because of it. Or maybe it's the sewage leak. Or the Flyers. 

Who can be sure? 

Sixers reach respectable spot in ESPN's latest NBA power rankings

Sixers reach respectable spot in ESPN's latest NBA power rankings

Everything seemed status-quo in ESPN’s Marc Stein’s most updated NBA power rankings. As expected the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers occupied the top spots. But when you venture down to number 15, you may gasp. 
  
Yes, the Sixers (15-27) are gracing the middle of the power rankings at number 15. Stein is starting to "trust the process" after the team’s recent 8-2 stint. It isn’t just Joel Embid making headlines with his record-breaking numbers and internet love life, but the team is now getting its due.  
  
“Philly is doing plenty of interesting things,” Stein wrote. “Ersan Ilyasova and Robert Covington have combined to drain 51 threes over the past 10 games. The Sixers, as a team, have moved into the league's top 10 in defensive efficiency.”

Covington and Ilyasova are part of a new-look starting five along with Embiid, and guards T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas. McConnell and Stauskas had spent the majority of the season coming off the bench, but Stauskas has started the last 12 and McConnell 10 of the last 11 (McConnell was sidelined for one game with a wrist injury). The Sixers are 7-3 with that starting guard duo.
 
Despite the most recent loss to the Hawks, the Sixers have won four of their last eight victories by one possession. Giving them plenty of momentum to jump up ten spots from the last power ranking. 
 
The Sixers will be at home to play the Clippers this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. They will be without Joel Embid who continues to rest his injured left knee. 
 

Jim Gaffigan warned Pope Francis not to mention Santa Claus in Philly

Jim Gaffigan warned Pope Francis not to mention Santa Claus in Philly

Comedian Jim Gaffigan opened up for Pope Francis when he visited Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families back in 2015.

That would seem like an odd opener for the Supreme Pontiff. And Gaffigan admits as much.

Gaffigan was a guest of Stephen Colbert's on Friday on his Late Show and talked about the surreal experience of warming up the crowd in Philly.

"I'm not a good Catholic," Gaffigan says. "If there was a test for Catholics, I would fail. But most Catholics would fail which is probably why there's not a test."

The comedian also got in a few low level digs at our town.

"'Philadelphia: the City of Brotherly Love,' which if you've been to Philly you know they mean that sarcastically," he says. "I mean, I love Philly but they mean that the same way they say 'Syria: the place for peace.'"

Meh.

"I was nervous at the sound check so I had to come up with some Philadelphia jokes. What do I know about Philadelphia? I know about the Liberty Bell, I know the cheesesteak, and I had just watched this ESPN 30-for-30 about Eagles fans throwing snowballs at Santa. Not on the brand of Brotherly Love. So when I was finally introduced there was still nobody there, I figured I'd just do my set. So I said, 'It's good to be here in Philadelphia,' and I heard a roar from crowd on the highway, so I thought I'd play to the crowd in the highway. 'Philly loves the Pope!' and I got another roar. 'Not that I was worried but you guys weren't that nice to Santa Claus.' Nothing. Silence. And then I heard something that sounded like booing... because it was booing. It wasn't everybody, maybe ten percent, so like 100,000 people booing my Santa joke before they saw their religious leader who was going to talk about mercy."

"Eventually I got a chance to meet the Pope and I was in this room and everybody was saying something to the Pope and I didn't know what to say. So when it finally came my turn, I said, 'Don't bring up the Santa incident.' The Pope didn't say anything but he gave me a look like, 'Dude, I would never bring that up.'"

The ESPN film that Gaffigan mentioned was actually a spoof. It was just kind of okay. You can watch it here.

The Pope part starts around the 5:10 mark in the below video.