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Rebounds in season opener by Ben Simmons, who also scores 19 points

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ release of Marcus Smith, Jordan Matthews’ knee injury and the reaction to Michael Phelps’ “race” against a great white shark.

The Flyers 50th anniversary season is the franchise’s first without founding father Ed Snider. Without Snider’s passion and commitment to excellence, will the long-term direction of the franchise be affected?

Ed Snider’s story isn’t simply one of innovation and creativity. HIs story is a passionate 50-year love affair with the franchise he created, its players and its fans.

Archive for January, 2018

Flyers Notebook: Giroux leads the way

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 31 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Perhaps too much time was spent on which Flyers didn’t make the All-Star Game instead of on the player who made it.

Captain Claude Giroux was the only Flyer selected to represent the Metropolitan Division in the All-Star Game. And he deserved it.

With 57 points, Giroux is tied for fifth in the NHL in scoring. His 43 assists are tied for second in the NHL, behind only teammate Jakub Voracek.

Giroux also is also playing better defensive hockey than he has in recent years. After three straight seasons in negative numbers in plus/minus rankings, bottoming out at minus-15 last season, Giroux emerges from the All-Star break at plus-7. Furthermore, he deserves a lot of credit for being willing to switch from center to left wing, opening up a top line spot for Sean Couturier.

There has been a tremendous difference from last season. Giroux’s next goal or assist will match his point total from last season (14 goals, 44 assists), when he played 82 games.

As Giroux is posting impressive numbers this season, it’s worth noting that he’s also moving up the rankings among players in franchise history. Giroux, who turned 30 on Jan. 12, ranks 10th in Flyers history in games played (705). He is fourth in assists (438) and eighth in points (627). With 28 more points this season, Giroux would pass John LeClair (643), Tim Kerr (650) and Eric Lindros (659) and move into fifth place in franchise history. Lindros, Kerr and LeClair all played fewer games with the Flyers than Giroux, but being mentioned in that company speaks volumes about Giroux’s accomplishments.

Many people focused Giroux’s faults the past few seasons, so it’s only fair that this season we emphasize the captain’s accomplishments, both this season and during his Flyers career.

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KONECNY EXCELS: Although the impact can’t be measured exactly, Claude Giroux also has played a role in the revival of Travis Konecny. The 19-year-old second-year forward scored four goals in the final four games before the All-Star break. Konecny’s has elevated his game – or his game has been elevated – after he joined Giroux and Sean Couturier on the top line.

Two of Konecny’s goals during the streak – against the Red Wings and Capitals – came 27 seconds into overtime. In both cases, he was on the ice with Couturier and defenseman Ivan Provorov. The four-game goal surge has increased Konecny’s goal total to 10, which ties him for fourth on the Flyers.

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DYNAMIC DUO: In addition to moving Konecny up to the top line to try to kickstart his offense, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has been using second-year defenseman Ivan Provorov and third-year defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere together more often on defense. That could be the Flyers’ top defensive pairing for years to come.

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SANHEIM SENT DOWN: As I’ve been suggesting should happen, the Flyers sent defenseman Travis Sanheim to the Phantoms after he was a healthy scratch for eight of the previous nine games. Once all of the defensemen were healthy, Sanheim, who has been mistake-prone during his rookie season, became the odd man out. It’s better to have Sanheim playing every game with the Phantoms than sitting on the sidelines for the Flyers.

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MISSING IN ACTION: Goalie Brian Elliott, who played 16 consecutive games during a stretch lasting from December through January, is sidelined by a “lower body” injury. The Flyers placed Elliott on injured reserve so they had an open roster spot for goalie Alex Lyon, who was recalled from the Phantoms. When Lyon backed up Elliott while Michal Neuvirth was injured earlier this season, he didn’t play a single minute.

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PATRICK SHOWS PROMISE: Although Nolan Patrick, the second overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft, has been struggling during his rookie season, he was playing better before the All-Star Game. His goal against the Maple Leafs on Jan. 18 contributed to the Flyers’ comeback victory. His overall play has improved, and we’ve seen more flashes of his tremendous vision on the ice.

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PLAYOFF POSITIONING: The Flyer open play after the All-Star break holding down the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers (24-17-8) are one point ahead of the Rangers and Islanders, with the Rangers having played one more game than the Flyers and the Islanders having played two more games.

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DEADLINE DISCUSSION: Given the Flyers’ youth, don’t expect them to make major moves before the Feb. 28 trade deadline – even if they remain on the fringe of the playoff picture. The Flyers would have to receive an offer that they almost can’t refuse in order to make a major trade.

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FAREWELL TO JAGR: Former Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr, who will turn 46 on Feb. 15, was released by the Calgary Flames. Jagr than signed a contract with the Kladno Knights in the second-tier Czech Republic. Jagr owns the team.

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LOOKAHEAD: The Flyers visit the Capitals on Wednesday (8 p.m.) and then the Devils on Thursday (1 p.m.), playing on consecutive nights as they emerge from the All-Star break. The Flyers will host the Senators on Saturday (1 p.m.) before returning to the road Tuesday (7 p.m.) to face the Hurricanes.

Putting It on the Line

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 31 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

I am 7-2-1 against the spread during the postseason. I’ve achieved that record primarily by picking underdogs.

The Eagles (+3) and Jaguars (+7½) came through in the conference championship games against the Vikings and Patriots, respectively. I don’t see why the underdog trend won’t continue in Super Bowl LII.

If you want a historical reason to take the Eagles, look no further than the Patriots’ Super Bowl history. They have five Super Bowl victories (in nine attempts), but the only time the Patriots won by more than four points was last season’s 34-28 overtime victory over the Falcons.

If you’re looking for a more current reason, only one favorite – the Patriots over the Titans in the divisional round – has covered the spread during this season’s playoffs. And two of the “underdog” covers were by the Eagles.

There’s only one game this week, so my “best bet,” and only bet, is the Eagles (+4½) over the Patriots.

(Home team in CAPS)                                           

(Winning team against the line in bold)

Best bet: EAGLES +4½ vs. Patriots

Last week: 2-0 (136-115-12 overall)

Best bet: 1-0 (10-10 overall)

Other top picks: 1-0 (32-32-4 overall)

Maurice Cheeks enters Hall of Fame