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Points for Pelicans center Anthony Davis on Sunday, setting All-Star Game record

The Greek god of wrestling analyzes what Brock Lesnar’s dominating victory over John Cena at SummerSlam means for WWE. Achilles Heel also reviews SummerSlam, presents good news and bad news for TNA, and tells you which former WWE team is reuniting for CHIKARA’s King of Trios.

The Greek god of wrestling tells us how WWE is loading up November to attract new subscribers to WWE Network. Achilles Heel also focuses on movies and England, informing us why Randy Orton will be off TV for a few weeks, how the former Drew McIntyre is making a name for himself around the world and why wrestling fans should enjoy “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.”

A repeat of last season’s success, winning 10 games and an NFC East title, won’t be considered progress this season. The Eagles must win a playoff game to have a successful year.

Archive for January, 2017

Flyers Notebook: Simmonds opening eyes

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 30 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Wayne Simmonds will never forget his first All-Star Game. Simmonds scored three goals in the 3-on-3 competition, including the game-winner in the finals, and was named the game’s most valuable player.

An added bonus is that the game was in Los Angeles, where Simmonds started his career.

The tremendous All-Star performance by Simmonds may have opened some eyes. Simmonds leads the Flyers with 21 goals, but many of those goals are scored around the net, where Simmonds battles for position. There isn’t much physical play in the All-Star Game – and that might be the understatement of the year – yet Simmonds excelled in that environment.

What many may have learned during Sunday’s All-Star Game is that Simmonds has skill to accompany his grit. He showed tremendous patience in waiting out Carey Price on one goal. He displayed speed to create a breakaway on another goal, deftly chipping the puck over Price’s shoulder. The game-winner was an easy shot into a wide-open net, but Simmonds had to use his speed to get into goal-scoring position.

Simmonds’ all-around game has improved this season. Despite what is indicated by a poor plus/minus rating (-15), Simmonds has improved defensively this season. He’s improved enough that head coach Dave Hakstol uses Simmonds to kill penalties. He even has a shorthanded goal.

The other half of special teams is where Simmonds is at his best. He has 10 goals and eight assists on the power play. Most of his goals are on deflections and rebounds in front of the net, but he can also score in open ice.

Simmonds, who scored in three straight games prior to the All-Star break, also isn’t a drag on the salary cap. He’s certainly worth the $4.3 million the Flyers are paying him this season. His salary rises during the next two seasons to $5 million, and then he is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2018-19 season. If Simmonds continues to improve, he will be a relative bargain at those salaries.

If you paid attention in the first sentence, it refers to Sunday as his first All-Star Game. That’s because, if he continues to develop, that won’t be his last All-Star Game.

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PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Flyers occupy the second wild card spot during the All-Star break. Their hold on that spot is tenuous because the Maple Leafs are just one point behind the Flyers and have played three fewer games. On the other hand, the Flyers are tied with the Bruins (56 points), but have played two fewer games.

There are 10 Eastern Conference teams, including the Flyers, within seven points of the second wild card berth. That contains the ingredients for a tumultuous battle for playoff berths down the stretch.

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TEAM OF THE CENTURY: Three players most frequently identified as Flyers were included in the NHL’s list of the top 100 players in league history: Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent and Eric Lindros. Six other players who wore orange-and-black for a short period of time also made the list. Those players were Peter Forsberg, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Pronger, Paul Coffey, Adam Oates and Darryl Sittler.

Choosing the top 100 players from the NHL’s 100-year history is a difficult task, but I think a case could be made for Bill Barber and Mark Howe to be included on the list.

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PRONGER CHECKS BIEBER: It wasn’t the crushing check it was made out to be in eye-catching Internet headlines, but former Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger took pop star Justin Bieber into the glass during the celebrity game during All-Star weekend. Any questions about why people loved Chris Pronger when he played?

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PROPER BALANCE: The Flyers entered the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak. The game-winner in their final game before the break, a 2-1 win over the visiting Maple Leafs, came from fourth-line forward Roman Lyubimov with 2:37 remaining in regulation When the Flyers are getting offensive contributions from all four lines, they are a difficult team to handle.

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GETTING EVEN: Eleven of Brayden Schenn’s 15 goals this season have come on the power play, and his 5-on-5 play has, at times, left a lot to be desired. One of his other goals game during a 3-on-3 overtime session, so Schenn has only scored three goals in normal even-strength situations. However, his 5-on-5 play appeared to be better during the final few games before the All-Star break.

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POOR SCHEDULING: Having a bye week within 10 days of the All-Star break, as the Flyers did, is a ridiculous schedule.

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LOOKAHEAD: The Flyers exit the All-Star break with 32 games remaining. They are evenly divided between home and away, with 16 of each left on the schedule. The Flyers return to action Tuesday (7 p.m.) at Carolina, and then begin a five-game home stand Thursday (7 p.m.) against the Canadiens. The Flyers will host the Kings on Saturday (1 p.m.).

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 29 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Fish ‘n Chips column is sponsored by Legal Sea Foods – Gourmet Gift Division … so much more than Fish ‘n Chips … “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!”)

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Roger Federer, normally the epitome of composure, jumped high in the air. He pumped his arms. He let out a scream.

Even for someone with as many titles as Federer, winning the Australian Open on Sunday wasn’t just a routine victory. It was special for several reasons.

  • The victory came in Federer’s first tournament in six months. He hadn’t played since Wimbledon because he was recovering from injuries.
  • The championship comes 4½ years after his last grand slam title. Many believed Federer, 35, would not win another major championship.
  • The victory came against Rafael Nadal, Federer’s chief rival.
  • Federer rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the fifth set to post the 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
  • Federer played three five-set matches in order to win this championship.

The championship was Federer’s 18th grand slam title, the most in history. Nadal is tied for second with Pete Sampras with 14. Federer has won Wimbledon seven times, the U.S. and Australian Opens five times apiece, and the French Open once. The seven years between Australian Open titles is the longest gap between wins at a major tournament during tennis’ open era.

Although Federer was ecstatic after Sunday’s victory, he returned to being composed and gracious during the post-match ceremony. Acknowledging how hard Nadal has worked to recover from his own injuries, Federer said that if there were draws in tennis, he “would have been happy to share (the title) with Rafa.”

Nadal was equally gracious. “Today, I think, was a great match,” Nadal said. “Probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me.”

Federer returned the compliment by offering encouragement to Nadal about his comeback. “Keep playing, Rafa, please,” Federer said. “Tennis needs you.”

Tennis – and sports – needs players like Federer as well. But we should cherish the opportunity to watch Federer play because, despite Sunday’s title, his career is winding down.

“I hope to see you all next year,” Federer said to the crowd in Rod Laver Arena. “And, if not, this was a wonderful run.”

The little slip by Federer could indicate that he is considering retiring in the not-so-distant future. That’s yet another reason to take advantage of every opportunity to watch the remarkable Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player in history.

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SERENA ‘SLAMS’ VENUS: One night before Roger Federer solidified his claim to being the best male tennis player in history, Venus Williams solidified her claim to being the best women’s tennis player in history with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over her sister, Venus, in the Australian Open final.

The victory is the 23rd grand slam singles title of Serena’s career, moving her one title ahead of Steffi Graf.

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REPORT: LURIE STEPS IN: There was an interesting story by Jeff McLane of The Inquirer a few days about Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. The story, which McLane said was confirmed by four independent sources, is that Lurie refused to allow quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo interview with the Jets to be their offensive coordinator.

According to McLane, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson told DeFilippo when the hired him that they wouldn’t stand in his way if he had an opportunity to become an offensive coordinator. Furthermore, according to McLane, Roseman and Pederson upheld their word and granted permission for DeFilippo to interview with the Jets, only to have Lurie overrule them.

This story is interesting for several reasons. First, it demonstrates that Lurie is taking a more active role in running the franchise. It also demonstrates the importance Lurie attaches to anything related to the development of quarterback Carson Wentz. The third reason this story is interesting is that, although DeFilippo’s only public comment was about how thrilled he is to be returning to the Eagles, it’s logical to assume that there is some discontent over not being able to pursue a job he was promised he could pursue.

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SUPER STUPOR: There doesn’t appear to be the usual level of enthusiasm before this year’s Super Bowl. Maybe it’s because the Falcons don’t have much of a national profile. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have the Peyton Manning passion play. Hopefully, the excitement level will pick up as we get closer to the big game next Sunday.

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STAR POWER: I’m happy for all of the players selected for their league’s all-star games. But that doesn’t mean that I have to watch. The NHL All-Star Game and Pro Bowl are two games I’m not watching today (Sunday).

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MISSING FOR THE CYCLE: Due to a failure to find enough corporate sponsorship money, the Philadelphia International Cycling Class has been cancelled for this year. The race, which made its debut in 1985, was also canceled in 2013 before renewed effort to find corporate sponsorship salvaged the race. There does not appear to be the same likelihood of a reprieve this year.

You don’t have to be a cycling fan to bemoan the cancellation of the cycling classic. With its signature run up the Manayunk Wall and its path through Lemon Hill and down Kelly Drive, the Cycling Classic was a quintessential Philadelphia event. Let’s hope the event returns in 2018.

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ALREADY FEELING A DRAFT: In light of all of the discussion sparked by the Senior Bowl, all I can say is “only three more months until the NFL Draft.”

In case you hadn’t heard, the draft is in Philadelphia this year.

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WING NUTS: The 25th Annual Wing Bowl will take place Friday at Wells Fargo Center. The celebrity guests for this year’s Wing Bowl include rapper Coolio and professional wrestling legend Ric Flair. The event is sold out.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, has traveled up the Manayunk Wall numerous times – in a car.

Classic George Steele (RIP) match, interview