Prime time games for Eagles during 2018 regular season

With his strong connection to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, the presence of key players from his tenure as Eagles head coach and the emotion (mostly negative) that he still elicits from Eagles fans, Andy Reid still casts a large shadow over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eric Fisher’s column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes, the chance of former Eagles and Phillies to be inducted into the Pro Football and Major League Baseball halls of fame, and the impact of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Greek God of Wrestling has a more favorable opinion of Battleground than most of the critics. Achilles Heel also reveals the announced matches for SummerSlam, expresses sympathy for Randy Orton and concern for Global Force Wrestling.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

Penguins cruise, push Flyers to the brink

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 18 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The Flyers were missing Sean Couturier during Game 4 against the Penguins.

It’s unlikely that his presence would have been enough to turn the tide in a 5-0 defeat that put the Flyers on the brink of elimination.

Having Wayne Gretzky in uniform may not have been enough to reverse the outcome.

The Penguins completely outplayed the Flyers from start to finish. Matt Murray made 26 saves while registering his second shutout of the season — and fourth in his last six playoff games — but he wasn’t tested very often. On the few occasions when the Flyers had a good scoring chance, Murray answered the challenge.

The disappointing loss left the Flyers grasping for reasons they could avoid their season ending Friday (7 p.m.) in Pittsburgh against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

“I don’t have answers for your guys,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said, “but we’re going to talk about it (Thursday) and we’ll fight to the end.”

Actually, the lack of fight was part of the problem Wednesday. The Penguins cruised to victory on the Flyers’ home ice without much difficulty.

“We’ve got to do a better job of swarming pucks and winning battles,” said forward Wayne Simmonds, who has one goal in his past 13 games.

The Flyers didn’t win many battles during Game 4. They didn’t spend much sustained time in the offensive zone. The Flyers also didn’t avoid undisciplined penalties, although they were better in that category than they were during their Game 3 defeat.

Matt Read committed a holding-the-stick penalty in the neutral zone just 3 minutes into the game. The Penguins’ top-ranked power play delivered, with Sidney Crosby sending a beautiful backhand pass across to Evgeni Malkin, who rocketed home the goal.

It didn’t help that Couturier, the Flyers’ top penalty-killing forward, didn’t play due to an inadvertent collision with Radko Gudas during Tuesday’s practice. Couturier, listed as having a “lower body” injury, leads Flyers forwards in ice time. In fact, he was leading all NHL forwards in ice time during regulation. Couturier, who found out Wednesday that he is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded the NHL’s best defensive forward, also plays on the top power-play unit.

Rookie Nolan Patrick, who moved to Couturier’s spot centering the first line, was one of the few bright spots for the Flyers. He led the team with six shots on goal, although he was a minus-3 in plus/minus rating.

But you can’t have a plus-rating on a team that doesn’t score goals. The Flyers have only scored one goal during their three losses to the Penguins in this series.

The Flyers appeared to have a good chance to tie the game late in the first period. For a few minutes, the Flyers were applying tremendous pressure. The fans were going crazy and Wells Fargo Center was filled with energy. And then the Flyers made another mistake.

Scott Laughton’s ill-advised cross-ice pass high in the offensive zone turned into a 2-on-1 break. Phil Kessel took a shot that bounced off the inside of both of goalie Brian Elliott’s pads and the goal post before trickling into the net. The momentum from the Flyers’ pressure evaporated as the Penguins extended their lead to 2-0 with 5.:23 remaining in the first period.

“Obviously, I want to make that save and keep us in the game,” Elliott said.

Elliott should have stopped Kessel’s shot, but he had no chance on Kris Letang’s shot that deflected off the stick of defenseman Andrew MacDonald and into the net. After that goal, which made the score 3-0, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol replaced Elliott with Michal Neuvirth, who was returning from an injury and could start Friday’s game. Elliott has been pulled twice in this series. While Murray is standing tall for the Penguins, the Flyers have used three goalies in four games.

“It’s tough to come out of a game like that when you’re still feeling pretty good,” Elliott said, “but I understand that (Hakstol is) trying to shake things up there.”

Neuvirth looked rusty nearly three minutes later when he was looking around the right post while Sidney Crosby tucked in a goal at the left post. With that goal, Crosby passed Mario Lemieux for first place on the Penguins’ all-time scoring list.

Crosby has been dominant in this series. Giroux might be an MVP candidate, but Crosby has been significantly better during this series. He may have added to his point total during the third period, but the lead was so safe that Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan rested Crosby during the third period. Even without Crosby, the Penguins added a goal in the third period while holding the Flyers scoreless and grasping at reasons to believe they can win on Friday.

“You’ve got to fight through it,” Simmonds said. “Nothing ever comes easy.”

Murray stifles Flyers

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 17 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

A look at the final score for Game 3 indicates that the Penguins bounced back from their Game 2 defeat and put the Flyers back in their place.

But the Penguins’ 5-1 margin of victory doesn’t accurately depict what transpired during Game 3.

The Flyers dominated the opening period. They had an 11-4 advantage in shots, and an even larger advantage in territorial play. But the Flyers found themselves trailing, 1-0, after the first period due to goalie Matt Murray and superstar center Sidney Crosby.

Murray finished the game with 26 saves, including 11 during the first period. He had the answer for every Flyers opportunity, including an early breakaway by rookie center Nolan Patrick. Murray snared Patrick’s forehand shot with his glove , keeping the game scoreless.

“I didn’t get it up high enough,” Patrick said. “I put it right in his glove.”

Patrick is being too tough on himself. Murray didn’t give any ground on the breakaway. When Patrick tried to go high on the glove side, as Travis Konecny did on his goal during Game 2, Murray made the big stop.

“They came hard,” Crosby said. “We expected that. (Murray) had to make some big saves. That was a great job by him, allowing us to settle in.”

Although outplayed by a large margin in the first period, the Penguins emerged with the lead due to Crosby’s goal with 9:35 remaining in the first period. Brian Dumoulin forced a turnover by Michael Raffl. Patrick Hornqvist, moved to the Crosby line for Game 3, sent the puck to Crosby to the left of the goal. Crosby gained control of the puck with his skate, then circled around to the other side of the net for a successful wraparound goal.

Discipline go the Flyers in trouble in the second period. Claude Giroux slashed Crosby’s stick out of his hand, leading to a power play. Derick Brassard scored 2:48 into the second period on a sweet setup by Phil Kessel after Kris Letang’s shot from the point. The Flyers got a bad break because Andrew MacDonald’s stick broke while shorthanded. Forward Matt Read handed MacDonald his stick, but that still left the Flyers with only three players with sticks.

Sticks were a problem for the Flyers during Game 3. In addition to Giroux’s penalty, Jakub Voracek and Scott Laughton were whistled for high-sticking. Voracek actually committed hooking and high-sticking infractions on the same play a few minutes after Brassard’s goal, but he was only called for hooking. Still, one penalty was enough for the Penguins, who extended their lead to 3-0 on Evgeni Malkin’s blast exactly four minutes after Brassard’s goal.

Special teams were a huge factor during Game 3. The Penguins’ top-ranked power play scored on 3 of 7 opportunities. The Flyers were 0 for 6 on the power play.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim, who scored his first playoff goal 13:42 into the second period. “With the weapons they have up front, we can’t give them that many power plays.”

Things went from bad to worse for the Flyers after Malkin’s goal. On the ensuing face-off, Crosby zipped right past Giroux, who compounded his mistake by being late cover defenseman Dumoulin as he jumped into the play and scored just 5 seconds after Malkin’s goal, tying an Stanley Cup playoff record for the fastest two goals.

“We just can’t get beat on a neutral zone draw like that and have a guy walking right down Main Street,” said Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, who could have stopped Dumoulin’s shot.

Head coach Dave Hakstol took responsibility for not calling timeout after the third goal, but he will need longer than 30 seconds to get the message across that the Flyers can’t afford to commit undisciplined penalties against the Penguins.

“We took six minor penalties in a 30-minute span in the middle of this game,” Hakstol said. “You can’t do that in the playoffs.”

And you really can’t commit that many penalties against the talented Penguins.

Although the Flyers need to reduce the number of penalties, one thing they would like to keep the same from Game 3 to Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m.) is their performance during the first period. The difference, though, is they would like that effort to produce some goals. Matt Murray, however, may have something to say about that.

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