Flyers Drop Game 1

...Well I guess that is not how things were drawn up before the game by either team. The Flyers lost game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals 6-5 to go down in the series 1-0. The game was a crazy game to say the least, and each team had multiple leads during the contest.

The Flyers got on the board early and often in Game 1. Unfortunately for them, so did the Blackhawks. The Flyers could never seem to get any momentum going, as once the Flyers would score, it seemed like the Blackhawks wasted no time getting the goal back. The Flyers opened the scoring in the 1st period, as Ville Leino fired a puck towards the net that went off a defenseman and made its way in. The Blackhawks came right back and score 1 minute later. The Blackhawks scored again a few minutes after that, but the Flyers answered with 2 more before the period was over, goals from Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, to make it a 3-2 Flyers lead at the first intermission.

If you flipped over to Comcast at this point, you could see Roy Halladay complete the 20th perfect game in MLB history. Maybe this would be a good sign for a great Philadelphia sports night.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks scored 1 minute into the 2nd period on a 2 on 1, and the game was tied at 3. About 7 minutes into the period, Blair Betts scored a goal, but again, the Blackhawks had an answer; the Blackhawks scored 2 minutes after Blair's tally to make it 4-4, and then scored again 5 minutes after that. Michael Leighton was yanked after this goal, a move I did not agree with. For the 2nd straight period, the Flyers scored in the final minute and a half of the period, with Arron Asham scoring in his 2nd straight game to make the score 5-5 going into the 3rd.

Michael Leighton was clearly not playing well, and I understand getting him out of the game in a game he is playing poorly, and tryint to re-fresh for Game 2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal at the time Leighton was pulled, and the game was tied going into the 3rd period. I would have rather had Leighton in the net for the 3rd period of a winnable game than Brian Boucher. The only reason to me to pull a goalie is when a goalie is playing poorly, and you have basically conceded that the game would be lost. This would have been a fine situation if the score were 5-1 or 5-2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal, and you want to keep the goalie out there who gives you the best shot at winning or getting on a hot streak - and to me that is Leighton. I'm not defending Leighton's play last night, because it was subpar, but I still would have kept him out there.

The 3rd period slowed down and calmed down a little bit, and Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks goalie, who had been struggling all game, along with Leighton, turned his game around and shut down the Flyers. I believe Leighton could have done the same if he was out there. The Blackhawks scored what would be the game winning goal 8 minutes in, on a fairly weak goal where Boucher bit on a shot fake and was out of position for the shot. The Blackhawks then clamped down on defense, and the Flyers never got any great chances towards the end of the game, and only finished the 3rd period with 6 shots in the period. Before the 3rd period, the Flyers were outshooting and outchancing the Blackhawks.

Either way, the Blackhawks really had to win this game more than the Flyers did. The Flyers really need to try to get Game 2 now, and come back home with the series tied 1-1. The Flyers got this crazy game out of the way; they now need to re-focus, relax, and play some better hockey all around. The Flyers seem to be able to play well playing fast, or slow hockey, but I think the Flyers need to try to slow the pace down a little bit. The Flyers need to do a better job in the neutral zone of not allowing the Blackhawks to come through and gain entry to the Flyers zone so easily. If the Flyers can win Game 2, they have still accomplished their goal of splitting in Chicago.

Micahel Leighton needs to step up his game, and show that he can look comfortable in between the pipes, because he never got into a rhythm. Also, the Flyers need to show they can hold onto a lead because blowing 3 leads in the game in unacceptable, even if they are only 1 goal leads, and early in the game. After they take the lead, if they do in Game 2, they need to do a better job on defense of not giving up shots in the slot, and just taking advantage of whatever scoring chances they get, much like Game 4 in Montreal.
Game 2 is not necessarily a must win, but if they do not take it, it makes both Game 3 and Game 4 at home must win games for the Flyers. A win in Game 2 would also allow the Flyers to calm down a little bit, and play their game coming back home for Games 3 and 4. They now just need to re-group, and execute Peter Laviolette's game plan for Game 2.

Halladay Completes Perfect Game

While the Flyers were in the midst of a crazy Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Roy Halladay was doing something that had only been done 19 times before him, and once in Phillies history - pitch a perfect game.

Halladay was perfect against the Marlins, retiring all 27 batters he faced, and striking out 11 en route to the perfect game. And the perfect game was basically needed just to get the win, since the Phillies offense is one of the worse in the league, the Phillies could only muster up an unearned run in this outing. This might be the most unwatched perfect game among Phillies fans, as it was on the road, and came during a night when the Flyers kicked off the Stanley Cup Finals.

Halladay never showed any emotion during the game, and if just looking at Halladay, you would have never known what was at stake. In the 9th inning, Ronny Paulino grounded out to 3rd to end the game, and complete the perfect game. Paulino's grounded initially looked like it was going to be a weak hit between 3rd and short, but it was hit softly enough to field by Castro, who was playing 3rd. I can't even imagine how nervous it must be to have the last ball hit to you in a perfect game situation.

Roy Halladay has never pitched a perfect game before or a no hitter. This is the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and the Phillies have now become the first team to throw 2 perfect games; the other being Jim Bunning in 1964.


Flyers Advance to Stanley Cup Finals

The Flyers put down the Canadiens on Monday night to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. This will be the Flyers first Stanley Cup appearance since 1997, when they were swept by the Red Wings, and the Russian 5. The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975 when the Broad Street Bullies were around, and have been to the Stanley Cup 5 times since then, and lost all 5.

This version of the Broad Street Bullies enters the Stanley Cup playing their best hockey all season. They defeated the Canadiens, who were playing great hockey coming into the series, 4-2, to eliminate Montreal. The Flyers advanced, and will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, who swept the #1 seeded San Jose Sharks.

Eliminating the Canadiens in Game 5 is exactly what the Flyers needed to do. You didn’t want to have to go back to Montreal for a Game 6, or give them any momentum. The game didn’t start out exactly as planned, as Montreal scored 59 seconds into the game. They then went on the power play, and had an opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the game.

They didn’t, and that particular Canadiens power play was the start of the Mike Richards show for the night. Richards plowed through a Canadiens player at the point setting up a shorthanded odd man rush that resulted in a good scoring chance for Braydon Coburn. About 30 seconds later, Claude Giroux cleared the puck out of the Flyers zone, and Richards chased after it. The puck slid into the Montreal zone, and Richards was in a race with Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik to be the first to the puck. Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak then decided he wanted to be first to the puck and skated after it. What resulted was a 3 person sliding collision which sent Richards, the puck, and Halak’s goalie stick towards the net. Richards got up, avoided Halak’s stick, and put the puck into the back of the net.

This was just the beginning of Mike Richards playing the “I’m not going to let this team lose this game” role. That is what a captain should do in a big game like this, and Richards was up to the task. The Flyers added 2 goals in the 2nd, one on a nice pass by Matt Carle, which left Arron Asham in front of the net by himself. He made a nice move, and beat Halak. Just over a minute later, the Flyers showed great puck movement, including an unreal behind the net pass from Richards to Jeff Carter, who put a shot over Halak’s shoulder.

Of course the game had to be nerve racking though, as Montreal scored just 7 minutes into the 3rd period, and the Flyers had to hold off a desperate Canadiens team for most of the rest of the game. They did just that, as the defense played well, and Michael Leighton played well down the stretch, and another fabulous Mike Richards play led to a Jeff Carter empty net goal. Mike Richards played his best game in a while, and it was especially important for him to do this in such a big game. Richards is the captain of the team, and the leader, and he showed why on Monday. He was not going to let the Flyers lose that game, and was a beast on almost every shift of his.

Richards had a solid game, Arron Asham had a number of chances, and the defense and Leighton was solid. The first goal was a little bit of lazy defense, but also a goal that Michael Leighton could have saved. After this point though, Leighton was solid. The fans were amazing as always, as Philadelphia fans always are, and were rewarded with getting to watch the Flyers celebrate a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. If the Flyers can win this Stanley Cup, it would be one of the more memorable seasons in Philadelphia sports history, and one of the best coaching performances by Peter Laviolette in these playoffs.

This was a great win, but the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, so there is still plenty of work to be done. As good as the Flyers are playing right now, which they are, the Blackhawks have been a great team wire to wire. They were the #2 seed in the Western Conference, which is a stronger conference than the East, and could have easily been the #1 seed. Instead, they took it to the #1 seeded Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The Blackhawks feature 3 solid lines, come at you in waves, have star players on offense and defense, and also have a hot goaltender, much like the Flyers. It will not be easy, but it should be a very good Stanley Cup Finals.


Flyers Win Game 4

The Flyers bounced back from their disappointing Game 3 loss and won Game 4 in hostile Montreal to take a 3 games to 1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Flyers did exactly what they needed to do going into Montreal for 2 games. They needed to just win 1 of those games and come back home with a 3-1 series lead. After the Flyers disappointing Game 3, they needed to step it up and take Game 4, so that the Canadiens would not have all the momentum and a series tied at 2.

The Flyers locked it down defensively, and Michael Leighton bounced back from Game 3, and recorded his 3rd shutout in 4 games of the series, as the Flyers won 3-0 in Game 4. The first period was a defensive battle with not many scoring chances, which I thought was a good thing for the Flyers, so the crowd would get slightly bored and restless. In period #2, the Flyers took over. Claude Giroux made an unbelievable solo play and beat the Montreal defense to put the Flyers on the board early in the 2nd period.

Later in the 2nd period, Chris Pronger made a great pass to Ville Leino, allowing Leino go move in on a breakaway, and Leino beat Halak to put the Flyers up 2-0 after 2 periods. In the 3rd, the Canadiens did put a lot of pressure on, but Leighton and the defense were up to the task. The Flyers had to kill off 2 power plays in the 3rd period, and then after doing so, Claude Giroux put in his 2nd goal of the game into the back of the net from his knees into the empty net to end the game.

The Flyers hardly allowed Montreal any good chances, and the Canadiens only ended up with 17 shots, after outshooting the Flyers in all 3 games thus far. Give a lot of credit to Peter Laviolette for regrouping the team in between games, and setting up the game plan, and allowing the Flyers to execute. Also, credit Matt Carle, and Chris Pronger, both of whom were really bad in Game 3, and both of whom really played well in Game 4.

Ian Laperriere and Jeff Carter both returned from injury to give the Flyers a needed boost. Jeff Carter moved onto the first line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, as Daniel Carcillo was a healthy scratch. I was calling for mostly Arron Asham to get scratched, but if it wasn't him, I would say Carcillo was the next guy who should have been scratched. Carter played almost 14 minutes, including a couple on the power play, and had 4 shots on goal, which is good. Laperriere replaced Andreas Nodl in the lineup, and played a little over 9 minutes, including a short period of time on the penalty kill. Blair Betts and Darrol Powe did a great job on the penalty kill. Laperriere is mostly known for his penalty killing and leadership as being a great locker room guy.

Again, the Flyers accomplished their task of taking 1 of 2 in Montreal, and now go back home for Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead. You really would love to close out this series in Game 5, so you don't give the Canadiens any life, and don't have to go back to the crappy city that is Monreal, and deal with their annoying fans. Game 5 is Monday night at 7:00.


Flyers Brought Back Down to Earth

The Flyers lost last night in Montreal 5-1, but still hold a 2-1 series advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Well, I guess it was wishful thinking to think the Flyers would never allow another goal in the playoffs, and just win every game on their way to their first Stanley Cup since the 1970s. The Flyers lost against a motivated, and spunky Montreal Canadiens teams, in front of a raucous/annoying crowd of French Canadians singing soccer chants.

The Canadiens took control from the beginning of the game, and never looked back. In the first 5 minutes of the game, the Flyers actually had 2-3 decent chances to score, including a power play, but Halak made a few nice saves, and kept the score tied at 0. Montreal got on the board halfway through the first, when Mike Cammalleri put in a rebound off the back boards to break Michael Leighton's shutout streak, and finally give the Canadiens some momentum, and their first lead of the series. The Canadiens put in 3 more, before the Flyers were able to get a goal in the 3rd period to avoid the shutout. And in classic Broad Street Bullies fashion, the Flyers just beat the crap out of the Canadiens at the end of the game. Simon Gagne continued his hot scoring streak, and scored the lone goal for the Flyers.

The Flyers defense really was the reason they lost this game, and it was most notably Matt Carle, and Chris Pronger. Quite frankly, Carle, and Pronger were horrible in this game. Carle and Pronger were both guilt of defensive let downs, turnovers, and not picking up guys going to the net all game long. It is hard to blame Leighton for most of the Canadiens goals, the Canadiens just flat out outplayed the Flyers all game long.

The Canadiens also outshot the Flyers for the 3rd straight game, which is disconcerting. The Flyers need to do a better job of keeping the play in the Canadiens end, and doing a better job cycling in the offensive zone. If the defense can play better, and the Flyers can cycle the puck and keep it down low, they should be more effective in Game 4.

A loss in this situation isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen. The Flyers weren't going to sweep through everyone. You knew they were going to lose a game at some point, and it happened on Thursday night. Losses are not always necessarily the worst thing that can happen. The Flyers can not re-group, move on from their solid 6 game winning streak, go back to the drawing board, and pretend that this series is tied going into Game 4. If the Flyers can win Game 4 in Montreal, they still will be in command of this series.

76ers Name Doug Collins Head Coach

The Philadelphia 76ers finally ended their coaching search today by officially naming current NBA analyst, Doug Collins, their head coach.

Doug Collins has been an NBA analyst for better part of the decade, after last coaching the Washington Wizards in 2002-2003. Collins has coached 8 seasons, coaching the Bulls, Pistons, and Wizards and compiling a 332-287 overall record. Collins does have some Philadelphia ties, as he was the #1 overall draft pick in the 1973 draft.

It's hard to say whether Collins is the right guy for this job. It's even harder to say why Collins would want this job. Collins clearly has a very good basketball mind, and is a guy who knows the game well, and is extremely intelligent. It isn't so clear if he will be able to succeed with this group of players. The Sixers, last time I checked are not a very good team, and have a bunch of bad contracts, which doesn't allow them to go after any players, and makes it harder to unload the current bad contracts. This probably means that the Sixers will not be very good for a few years, even with a solid young guy in Jrue Holiday, and the #2 overall pick this year.

Collins always had success where he went, but always also seemed to slightly underachieve. Collins was the Chicago Bulls coach from the middle to the late 80s, and consistently made the playoffs with Michael Jordan leading the team, but the Bulls never took off until Collins was replaced with Phil Jackson. Collins took some time off, and then coached the Pistons in the mid to late 90s, and which point he was fired from that job. He then took some more time off and coached the Washington Wizards for a couple seasons, and was fired again. In between all the coaching jobs, Collins worked as an analyst for NBA games for TNT, and is considered one of the better analysts.

Doug Collins name has surfaced for multiple coaching positions after his final coaching job with the Wizards, but he has never been hired until now. Like I said, I do respect Doug Collins' knowledge for the game, and think he knows his stuff, I am just not sure he is the guy to be the long term coach of the 76ers. The 76ers will not be good for a few years, and Doug Collins tendencies are to get sort of burned out after coaching for a few years. If the Sixers continue to be a bad team for the next few years, I hope that Collins stays motivated to coach the team, and does not bail after a couple of poor seasons.

This Sixers coaching job is not a very good one right now. Due to all the bad contracts, it is not easy to bring in players, and the team is basically handicapped and stuck with the guys who are currently on the team. However, in a couple years, when the Sixers do have some wiggle room, this could a very good coaching job to have. We will just have to see if Doug Collins sticks around long enough, and is able to keep the team motivated, which in today's NBA, is not an easy thing to do.


Coach Laviolette Deserves Credit

The Flyers had fought their way back admirably from down 3 games to 0 to the Bruins to tie the series at 3, and force a decisive Game 7 in Boston. Unfortunately, Game 7 did not start out according to plan. The Flyers got down early 3-0 in the first period, and never fought back, and ended up losing the game. The Flyers still deserve a lot of credit for fighting back even to force a Game 7…..

This might have been the story line after Game 7 if one Peter Laviolette was not the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. Luckily for us, he is, and the storyline instead goes something like this…

The Flyers had fought their way back admirably from down 3 games to 0 to the Bruins to tie the series at 3, and force a decisive Game 7 in Boston. Unfortunately, Game 7 did not start out according to plan. The Flyers got down early 3-0 in the first period….. and then came one of the greatest called time outs in Philadelphia sports history. Teams only get 1 time out in hockey, so they are usually reserved for late in the 3rd period of games to give your guys a short rest before one final push. Laviolette used the Flyers 1 timeout in the first period after going down 3-0.

Since that timeout, the Flyers have outscored the Bruins, and now Canadiens, 13-0. Since that timeout, the Flyers have not allowed a goal. The defense has been great, and Michael Leighton has been even better. In that timeout, Laviolette told Michael Leighton to not allow another goal, and the Flyers would win that game. Leighton apparently received the message loud and clear, as he did not allow another goal in that Game 7, and has not let the Canadiens find the net as of yet through 2 games of the Eastern Conference Finals series.

Peter Laviolette also told the Flyers during that timeout to settle down, and get a goal before the period was over to make it 3-1. As we all know, James van Riemsdyk got that goal, the Flyers went into the locker room down 3-1, and the rest, as they say is history.

Peter Laviolette was hired by the Flyers on December 4th, as they sent John Stevens packing. The Flyers were slumping at the time, and a replacement was needed. It did take some time to get used to Laviolette’s aggressive forechecking system, but the players have bought into it, and the Flyers aggressive forechecking is one of the reasons they are having success so far in the playoffs. Laviolette won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, so he brought instant credibility and respect from the players, who knew that Laviolette can get the job done as coach. He has gotten the job done here, and then some.

Laviolette, much like some of the players, seems to elevate his game once the playoffs start. Laviolette is focused on winning the Stanley Cup, and anything short of that will be a disappointment. After eliminating the Bruins capping off one of the most historic comebacks in sports history, Laviolette remained stoic, and said that the Flyers were not happy with advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, and that the Flyers can still play better. After both the Game 1 and Game 2 wins over Montreal in the Eastern Conference Finals, Laviolette was not pleased. He said the Flyers need to play better if they want to advance. I like that out of the head coach. We can call this the anti-Andy Reid.

After losses to terrible teams like the Raiders, or blowout losses to good teams like the Cowboys to end the season, Andy Reid continues to say how good the team played, and how close they are, and that they are only a hair off, and how they will get it right for next game, since they don’t have far to go. This is complete bullshit, as is most everything that comes out of Andy Reid’s mouth. Even after historic wins, and 6-0 wins, Laviolette is not content. Winning is always good, but can often mask a lot of mistakes, and Laviolette knows this, and knows that the Flyers need to continue to correct some things if they want to continue to advance in these playoffs. Peter Laviolette should be the long-term coach of the Flyers, as he is right up there with Charlie Manuel right now, as the best coach in the city.

76ers Jump Up To Pick #2

While the Flyers were busy taking a 2-0 series lead on the Canadiens last night, and the Phillies were busy not giving Roy Halladay any run support, and losing to the Pirates, the NBA Draft Lottery was held, or in the case of 2010, the John Wall Sweepstakes.

The Sixers were sitting in the 6th position, meaning if everything played out by the numbers, the Sixers would have the #6 pick in the NBA Draft. Jrue Holiday was sent to represent the 76ers, which seemed strange since if we got the #1 overall pick, we would be taking another PG in Wall to replace Holiday. The Sixers did not get the #1 overall pick, but instead got the #2 overall pick, which is great news. Not only do the Sixers not have to worry about taking a point guard, assuming the Wizards, who won the draft lottery, take John Wall #1 overall.

Keep in mind that the Sixers do not have a coach currently, but having the #2 pick, and the chance at getting an elite guy might be attractive to some coaches going forward, especially since Jrue Holiday showed some promise last season.

Here are some other players who the Sixers could take, if John Wall goes #1—

Evan Turner - SG/SF, Ohio State

Some would argue that Evan Turner is better than John Wall, and should go #1. Turner was the best player in college basketball last year, and led Ohio State to a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a Sweet 16 berth. Ohio State lost in the Sweet 16, but it was not because Evan Turner didn’t play well. Turner is a 6’7” shooting guard, who was a junior last season, and averaged 20.4 point per game, 6.0 assists per game, and 9.2 rebounds per game. Turner can fill up a stat sheet very well, much like Andre Iguodala.

If you project Turner to start at the shooting guard position this season, Andre Iguodala will be the starting small forward, which he likes, and Thaddeus Young will have to come off the bench. This also gives the Sixers a very large backcourt in 6’4” point guard Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner at the 2. Turner makes the most sense here.

Derrick Favors – PF, Georgia Tech

Derrick Favors was one of the extremely talented freshman in the nation last year, and is a load underneath the basket. Favors is 6’10”, and seems to be very streaky. Favors averaged 12.4 points per game, and 8.4 rebounds a game last season. Favors is a guy who projects as a really good NBA player, and when Favors was playing well, there were few big men who could contain him last year. Being a power forward, there really is no need for the 76ers to pick Favors, as we already have Elton Brand locked up for forever, and Marreese Speights, a solid young player behind Brand.

Wesley Johnson – SF, Syracuse

Wesley Johnson busted onto the college basketball scene last year, and played an extremely important role in Syracuse’s success last season. Johnson is a junior, and was a transfer from Iowa State. Johnson made his mark immediately, and ended up averaging 16.5 points per game, and 8.5 rebounds per game. Johnson is a beast, and a freak athlete who can attack the rim, but also shoot the 3, making 41.5% of his three pointers last season. However, Johnson is not a guy the Sixers really need at this point, as they already have 2 similar players in Iguodala, and Thaddeus Young, and they are struggling finding enough minutes for Young right now.

DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Kentucky

Cousins, like John Wall, was one of the heralded freshman on the Kentucky squad this year. The first think you notice about Cousins is that he is a huge body. Cousins is listed at 6’11”, 270 pounds, and thus is a huge man to remove from the middle of the floor. He uses his weight well, and is comfortable going right at people, and throwing his body around. Cousins averaged 15.1 points per game, and 9.8 rebounds per game. In my opinion, Cousins should be the pick by the Sixers if they do not pick Evan Turner. Cousins could end up being a beast on the inside, and guys like that are not easy to find, and do not come along all the time. Cousins could fill a need at center once Dalembert is gone, or even at power forward once Brand is gone. Cousins could actually replace Brand in the lineup if he outplays him, since Brand is past his prime.

NBA Mock Draft (5/19/10)

With the NBA Draft Lottery taking place last night, we now know where certain teams will make their picks. See below for our first NBA Mock Draft of the year--

1. Washington Wizards - John Wall – PG, Kentucky
2. Philadelphia 76ers- Evan Turner – SG/SF, Ohio State
3. New Jersey Nets- Derrick Favors – PF, Georgia Tech
4. Minnesota Timberwolves- Wesley Johnson – SF, Syracuse
5. Sacramento Kings- DeMarcus Cousins – PF/C, Kentucky
6. Golden State Warriors Al-Farouq Aminu – SF, Wake Forest
7. Detroit Pistons- Greg Monroe – C, Georgetown
8. Los Angeles Clippers- Donatas Motiejunas – PF/C, Lithuania
9. Utah Jazz- Cole Aldrich – C, Kansas
10. Indiana Pacers- Patrick Patterson – PF, Kentucky
11. New Orleans Hornets- Xavier Henry – SG, Kansas
12. Memphis Grizzlies- Ed Davis – PF, UNC
13. Toronto Raptors- Hassan Whiteside – PF/C, Marshall
14. Houston Rockets- Ekpe Udoh – PF/C, Baylor
15. Milwaukee Bucks- James Anderson – SF, Oklahoma State
16. Minnesota Timberwolves- Avery Bradley – PG/SG, Texas
17. Chicago Bulls- Daniel Orton – C, Kentucky
18. Miami Heat- Larry Sanders – PF, VCU
19. Boston Celtics- Luke Babbitt – SF, Nevada
20. San Antonio Spurs- Eric Bledsoe – PG, Kentucky
21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Solomon Alabi – C, Florida State
22. Portland Trailblazers- Damion James – SF, Texas
23. Minnesota Timberwolves- Paul George – SF, Fresno State
24. Atlanta Hawks- Armon Johnson – PG, Nevada
25. Memphis Grizzlies- Gordon Hayward – SF, Butler
26. Oklahoma City Thunder- Gani Lawal – PF, Georgia Tech
27. New Jersey Nets- Devin Ebanks – SF, West Virginia
28. Memphis Grizzlies- Jordan Crawford – SG, Xavier
29. Orlando Magic- Willie Warren – SG, Oklahoma
30. Washington Wizards- Stanley Robinson – SF, UConn

Flyers Continue Hot Streak

The Flyers continued their amazing postseason run last night by winning Game 2 against the Canadiens and holding serve by winning both games at the Wachovia Center. The Flyers won the game 3-0, and have now outscored the Canadiens 9-0 in the two games.

The story of this game was simple – Michael Leighton. Leighton, much like in Game 1, kept the Flyers in the game when they were outplayed in the first period for the 2nd straight game. In Game 1, Leighton had to make 13 saves in the first period, as the Flyers went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead. In Game 2, Leighton was even better, making 16 saves in the opening period, again allowing the Flyers to take a 1-0 lead into the break. Leighton made 3 point blank saves in a row on Andrei Kostitsyn in the first period right out in front of the net. Leighton put himself in a great position all night in order to make the necessary saves. Leighton’s positioning has been nothing short of spectacular, allowing him to make nice saves, and not get out of position.

On the offensive end, I would have liked to see the Flyers get more chances and opportunities. The Flyers need to get better at 5-on-5 hockey going forward in this series, especially on the road. The Flyers power play is what has propelled them to this 2-0 series lead, along with Leighton. The Flyers were 2-6 on the power play in Game 1, and 2-4 in Game 2. The 4 power play goals in the first two games of the series has been solid, and obviously I would like the Flyers to continue to score power play goals, but also want to see the Flyers play better 5-on-5 hockey the rest of the series.

Also, the Flyers have technically been outshot in both games so far, so that is something to look at going forward. Actually in each game, the Canadiens have come out and really controlled the first period, but the Flyers have scored a goal in the first period each game. The 2nd period seems to be fairly even both games, and the Flyers outshot the Canadiens in both 3rd periods thus far. Shots on net is a somewhat overrated statistic, as you can have plenty of scoring chances and not get a shot on net, and put a weak shot on net which isn’t a scoring chance.

Any way you look at it, taking a 2-0 series lead is a very good thing, but it doesn’t get any easier having to go to Montreal for Games 3 and 4. Montreal is one of those teams who has a very good home ice advantage, and always seem to play better on their home ice than on the road. The Flyers need to continue to play good defense in front of Michael Leighton, as we cannot rely on Leighton to shut out the Canadiens the entire series. The Flyers defense I think has done a good job shutting down Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec. The Flyers need to take at least one in Montreal, as you don’t want let the Canadiens back in this series by winning 2 in a row and tying the series at 2, and having all the momentum. Game 3 will be Thursday night in Montreal.


Flyers Continue Momentum in Game 1

The Flyers beat the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in convincing fashion, winning the contest 6-0. I really was not sure what to expect from this series, as the Flyers came in after dominating the Devils, and then having the historic comeback against the Bruins. The Canadiens entered the game as the #8 seed, but beat the #1 seed Capitals, and the defending champion Penguins.

The Flyers scored early and often in this game, taking a 1-0 lead on the power play just 4 minutes into the game as Braydon Coburn, who has been solid all postseason got rewarded with his first goal of the postseason, much like van Riemsdyk's tally in Game 7 against the Bruins. Speaking of James van Riemsdyk, he had another good game, and put in a goal in the 2nd to make it 2-0. The Flyers continued the onslaught from there, and added goals from Briere, and Gagne in the 2nd period, and then Hartnell and Giroux in the 3rd period to win the game 6-0. Matt Carle and Ville Leino both had 2 assists in the game.

Obviously scoring 6 goals will be the big story of the game, but Michael Leighton obviously stopped every shot that came his way, and played a great game. He wasn't challenged a whole lot, but did make some very nice saves early, including 13 in the first period alone to keep the Flyers head, and allowed the Flyers to put the game away.

The game wasn't necessary as lopsided as the score way, both teams had chances and opportunities to score, the Flyers just took advantage of theirs, and Leighton greatly outplayed Halak, who was pulled after the Flyers 4th goal. You have to be encouraged with the way the Flyers played, and I didn't even mention Mike Richards and Chris Pronger in the summary.

Hopefully the Flyers put this game behind them quickly, and move onto Game 2, and hold down home ice. They still need to come out and continue their strong forechecking and get to the Canadiens when they are not playing well. We have seen numerous times where the Flyers will score 6 goals one game, and then 0 or 1 the next, so hopefully the Flyers come out and play well in Game 2. The Flyers have now outscored their opponents 10-0 since going down 3-0 in Game 7 against the Bruins. Either way, very positive and encouraging sign to start the series with.


Rasheed Wallace is the Man

Rasheed Wallace has never let been shy about being a die hard Flyers fan, and has never been shy about showing this.

Wallace, back in 2004 when Jeremy Roenick scored a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs to win a series in overtime, cut off the interview he was currently doing in the Detroit Pistons locker room to watch the television in the locker room, and starting yelling "It's in, it's in."

Wallace has been seen numerous times in his Flyers gear and Flyers hat. So, I have to give him props, as Wallace, not playing for Boston, was being interviewed on Thursday night after Boston beat the Cavaliers to close out the series. This took place in Boston, the night before the Flyers and Bruins were about to play Game 7 in the same city. Needless to say, Rasheed Wallace is the man, as this is what he looked like at the interview--

Flyers Win!!!!!

The Flyers capped off a historic comeback, one of the best in playoff sports history, to beat the Bruins 4-3, in a game that featured an unbelievable comeback of its own.

Only 3 teams in the history of sports, and 2 teams in the history of the NHL had ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. The Flyers not only did that, but also fell behind the Bruins by a score of 3-0 in the 1st period, only to still come back and win the game 4-3 with a 3rd period goal.

The Bruins were all over the Flyers in the 1st period, and the Flyers took 2 stupid penalties, both of which the Bruins capitalized on to make it a very quick 2-0 lead. The Bruins then had numerous chances to make it 3-0, and then finally did that on Lucic's 2nd goal of the game.

At that point, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout, in what turned out to be one of the best timeouts in Philadelphia sports history. He told Michael Leighton to calm down, and if he did not allow a goal the rest of the game, the Flyers would win. He also said that someway they needed to get a goal before the 1st period was over.

The Flyers would do both of those. James Van Riemsdyk, who has been very back this postseason, scored on a semi-fluky goal that slid under the pad of Tuukka Rask. This accomplished exactly what the Flyers needed by getting the score back to a manageable 3-1 deficit going into the first intermission.

The Flyers came out on a mission in the 2nd period, and really dominated this period and got back in the game. Scott Hartnell jumped on a rebound early in the 2nd period and roofed a backhand to make the score 3-2. Shortly after, Danny Briere threw a puck in front of the net, which somehow deflected into the net to make it 3-3. The Flyers actually appeared to score again later in the period, and it was reviewed, but was not called goal. Sure looked like a goal to me.

The game went to the 2nd intermission tied at 3, and the Flyers had all the momentum. The Flyers continued to play well into the 3rd period, and even though the period was fairly even, the Flyers did have the majority of the scoring chances.

A too many men of the ice penalty gave the Flyers a power play a little more than halfway through the 3rd period, and Simon Gagne scored as the power play was winding down. The Flyers held off the Bruins the last 8 minutes of the game to cap off one of the best moments in sports history.

I would say that this victory ranks up there among the top 10, possibly top 5 Philadelphia victories I have ever watched in my lifetime. Just flat out unbelievable. Down 3-0 in the series, then down 3-0 in Game 7 in Boston, only to come back and win against a team that supposedly locks it down defensively when they get a lead. Incredible.

Hopefully the Flyers can continue this little momentum and run they have going now. It helps that they have home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals as the #7 seed, because the #8 seed Montreal Canadiens await them. Game 1 of that series is Sunday night at the Wachovia Center.


Stadium Switcheroo

So the G20 Summit is descending on Toronto in a few weeks and it’s the Phillies that may be the biggest beneficiaries of all. Thanks to all the Political Honchos who will descend on the Canadian city, the Interleague series scheduled to be played in the Skydome has been relocated to Citizens Bank Park. The Blue Jays will still serve as the home team and the designated hitter will still be in full effect, but there are still more issues that need to be worked out in order to make the Blue Jays feel right at home here in Philly.

First of all: no Phillie Phanatic. Sorry fans, he may be the best mascot in baseball but he doesn’t travel with the team. Therefore, he isn’t invited to this road series.

When the big screen tells us the rules of fan behavior in the stadium, it should come from Adam Lind and Aaron Hill and not Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez. But either way, “enjoy the game.”

If and when Ryan Howard hits a home run, the Liberty Bell must remain silent. No banging back and forth to try and excite the crowd. They are the road team after all.

The organist and PA announcer from Toronto should be on hand. Dan Baker and his well respected pipes will have to sit this one out. And when the stadium feels flat, it will be up to the Toronto organist to play some Canadian little ditty to pep the fans back up.

When the 7th inning stretch rolls around, fans should be instructed to “Root root root for the Blue Jays.”

For this one weekend, the fans of the Phils are granted the opportunity to make bad jokes about how good of a road team the Phillies are.

Blue Jays fans are allowed to harp on visiting Phillies fans and tell them to “go back home!”

A red Maple Leaf should be painted in the on-deck circle.

The soft pretzels should be shaped like T’s instead of P’s and sodas should be served in collectible cups with an image of Vernon Wells instead of Chase Utley.

So as you see, shifting from one stadium to another isn’t as easy as hoping on a plane. There are so many more things that are involved in Home Field Advantage. Obviously, none of these things will actually happen. And that’s just fine with this Phillies fan. Here to 3 extra home games!

Flyers Force Game 7

The Philadelphia Flyers are on the verge of making history Friday night by attempting to be the 3rd hockey team ever, and 4th professional team (NHL, NBA, MLB) ever to come back from a 3 games to 0 deficit. The Flyers won Game 6 at the Wachovia Center, in front of a raucous crowd, which included myself, and forced a game 7.

Teams have gone down in playoff series 3-0 in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association 281 times. Only 3 times has a team ever come back from such a deficit to win the series. It has happened twice in the NHL, and once in MLB. The last time it happened in the NHL was 1975. The Flyers still have their work cut out for them though, and obviously it goes without saying that to win any game in the playoffs on the road, in a Game 7 is an extremely difficult task.

The Flyers jumped out of the gates quickly in Game 6, and really dominated the play in the first half of the first period. Some great forechecking, and great work around the net to keep the puck alive by the Richards-Carcillo-Gagne line led to the first goal of the game by Mike Richards. Kimmo Timonen also did a good job pinching in on the play getting the puck out in front of the net to Gagne. The Bruins then had their chances as they took control late in the first period, and into the 2nd period. Michael Leighton was up to all the challenges though, including a first period breakaway that he saved.

Late in the 2nd period, the Flyers were about to have a long 5 on 3 power play when Chris Pronger knocked Zdeno Chara to the ice and got called for a weak penalty. However, on the 4 on 3 power play, Danny Briere blasted a shot over Rask’s shoulder and into the net. The two goal scorers in Briere and Richards continue to play really well in the playoffs.

Michael Leighton, making his first start since March 16th, played amazing. He made save after save in the 3rd period when the Bruins were really pressing. The Bruins did finally get a puck past Leighton with exactly 1 minute left in the 3rd period, but they didn’t get much pressure in the final minute, and the Flyers left the ice with a 2-1 victory, and all the momentum going into Game 7. However, momentum can change quickly, especially when you go on the road.

The Flyers need to jump out quickly, like they have the last 2 games, and get a first period lead. The last 2 games, the Flyers have scored in the first period, and it has forced the Bruins to play from behind, something they are not good at doing. The Bruins are not an offensive power; they are a physical, defensive team that likes the get the lead and sit on it. The Flyers need to make sure this doesn’t happen in Game 7. That will be easier said than done.


Flyers Make It a Series

The Flyers won last night 4-0 in Boston to actually make this 2nd round series competitive. The Flyers still are up against the wall, and still need to take 2 more in a row, starting tomorrow night in Philadelphia.

The Flyers really outplayed the Bruins in Game 4 in Boston from start the finish. The Scott Hartnell-Ville Leino-Danny Briere line did most of the damage, as Ville Leino was flying all over the ice. Take a look back, and you can see that we reported during the first round series against the Devils that Ville Leino should be playing, and possibly taking Scott Hartnell's spot in the lineup. Leino got the Flyers on the board in the first, and did most of the damage on the next 2 goals, getting an assist on 1, and skating circles around the Bruins to keep the puck in the offensive zone for a Hartnell goal the other time. Beisdes Leino, and Hartnell, Simon Gagne had 2 goals to close out the game.

Speaking of Scott Hartnell, he finally showed up for a game. He scored for the first time in 22 games, and did have a good game overall, skating better, and being more aggressive. This line will need to continue the strong play if the Flyers want to win the series.

The game was somewhat strange in that you had the Flyers really dominating, the Bruins taking dumb penalties, and then giving up in the 3rd period taking cheap shots at the Flyers the entire period. The Flyers, being the most hated team by officials in sports, would have gotten suspensions thrown their way if they had done some of the things the Bruins were doing in the 3rd. Claude Giroux was boarded late in the 2nd period, continued to play for the rest of the 2nd, but then sat out the 3rd period. It looks like this was more precautionary and that Giroux will be good to go Game 6.

Brian Boucher, however, will not be good to go for Game 6, and will probably miss the rest of the playoffs with a strained MCL. Boucher has been very good in these playoffs, and will definitely be missed, but I'm not so sure Michael Leighton is much of a downgrade from Boucher, even though Leighton does not have the playoff experience that Boucher does. Leighton saved all 14 shots he faced after he entered the game last night, but the Flyers did a very good job defensively, really for the first time all series.

Game 6 will be important, and the home crowd will need to get the Flyers into the game. Kotite's Corner will be present in the crowd cheering on the orange and black. Game 6 will start at 8 o'clock.


Flyers Need to Take Next 2

The Flyers get back on their home ice tonight in a must win game in the 2nd round of the playoffs against the Bruins, who currently hold a 2-0 series lead.

The first two games of the series, both in Boston, have been fairly evenly matched, with the Flyers playing well for stretches and the Bruins playing well for stretches. Unfortunately, the Flyers have been playing catch up in both games, and then unable to keep their momentum going at the end of games. The Bruins got a fortuitous bounce of the puck in overtime in Game 1 to win that game, and then got another bounce with the puck ending up in front of the net that they scored with less than 3 minutes left in Game 2.

Both games really could have gone either way, and the Flyers are unfortunate to be down 2-0, but they are down 2-0 nonetheless. Getting back in front of the home crowd should do a lot for the Flyers, and help them get back in the series. The Flyers won both home games in their first round series, also Games 3 and 4, and will need to do the same against the Bruins, or else they will have to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

The work starts tonight in Game 3. The Flyers need to get some contributions from players they wouldn’t normally get them from with the injuries. Carter, Gagne, and Laperriere remain out with injuries. Scott Hartnell also has yet to show up in the playoffs, but it’s not due to injury, it’s due to the fact that he sucks all of a sudden. Mike Richards, Chris Pronger, and Brian Boucher have been the 3 best Flyers throughout the playoffs so far probably. Boucher did not have a very good Game 2, and should have not let in a couple of the Bruins goals that game, but overall has been solid. Boucher will need to step it up back at home. Danny Briere really found his game at the end of the Devils series, and has continued it into this series. Claude Giroux has also been a beast, and Ville Leino had a very good Game 2 assisting on both Flyers goals.

The Flyers need to continue to rely on these guys, but also need Giroux to step it up in this series, as he did all of his damage so far in the Devils series. Also, even though he is young, JVR needs to step it up as well, as he has a lot of skill and is flying around the ice, just has not produced the point results. It is unfortunate that Scott Hartnell has been killing this team with his play, but he has just been awful. He looks like he forgot how to play hockey. I would be calling for Hartnell to be a healthy scratch, but that is not really feasible with all the injuries.

Either way, no matter who it is, the Flyers need everyone to elevate their game to win these next 2 games. You want to pull out a solid win tonight, you don’t want a game that is 2-2 towards the end and anything can happen. Also, the Flyers need to get the first goal tonight, and not play from behind. Both games, the Bruins have gotten on the board early in the first period, and that cannot happen tonight.


The Phillies got a much needed win last night to avoid dropping the first two games of an important 4 game home series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Carlos Ruiz hit a walk off HR in the bottom of the 10th to give the Phillies the 2-1 victory.

Ruiz usually does most of his damage come playoff time, but decided to carry the Phillies to this regular season victory. Ruiz had 2 of the 5 Phillies hits, and had both RBI’s. The first RBI came in the 7th inning of a scoreless game, with a deep sac fly that scored Ibanez. Then in the 10th inning, Ruiz had a great at bat, and blasted a walk off solo home run that sent everyone home happy.

Cole Hamels pitched well, which is obviously a very good sign going forward. Hamels faced a strong right handed lineup of Ludwick, Pujols, and Holliday and did well against them. Hamels did run into some trouble in the 9th inning, but overall you have to be pleased with his performance. This is a good much needed sign, as Hamels has to become that solid #2 guy in the rotation. This is due to the fact that Ruben Amaro made one of the worst trades in team history by giving away Cliff Lee. This is probably the worst trade in Philadelphia sports history in the last 30 years.

But anyways, Hamels pitched well, and Blanton pitched pretty well on Monday night, even though he ran into some trouble in the 7th inning. You still have to be pleased, as Blanton’s stuff looked good, and in his first start back, he got through 6 innings with only 1 earned, and then did run into some trouble in the 7th.

The offense, which has been struggling, came alive in the last 2 games of the Mets series, including smashing around Johan Santana. The first 2 games of this Cardinals series however, have not been great offensively. They haven’t gotten many hits, and have not put runs on the board. I think the offense will come with time, and only get stronger as the season goes on.

Unfortunately, offense can come and go, and will go stretches where they will struggle, which is why it is always important to have a solid pitching staff, and also why in the playoffs, pitching tends to be more important than hitting.

The bullpen needs to get better, and Ryan Madson is not being reported out at least 2 months. I believe the Phillies need to bring up Scott Mathieson from Triple A, and see what he can do as a major league reliever. Mathieson’s stuff is very good, and he might be able to get in there and play well.