Consecutive wins for Celtics, who post 92-88 win over Warriors on Thursday

The Greek god of wrestling previews SummerSlam, which he says has all the elements to be a terrific event. Achilles Heel also criticizes WWE for firing Alberto Del Rio, tells you when to watch TNA (at least for the near future), which former Ring of Honor champion signed with WWE and which former WWE wrestler won the EVOLVE championship.

After a horrendous May, Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been smoking hot during the first week of June. Eric Fisher also examines Maikel Franco’s struggles, the first career wins for Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively and Vince Velasquez’s injury news.

The Greek God of Wrestling provides a comprehensive preview of WWE’s SummerSlam this Sunday. Achilles Heel also sends prayers and best wishes to Ric Flair following his surgery, tells us why Alberto El Patron was stripped of the GFW Championship, and highlights Ring of Honor’s and CHIKARA’s upcoming 3-night stands in the United Kingdom.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

Flyers Notebook: Provorov a veteran presence

Posted by Eric Fisher On November - 5 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

With the Flyers’ already-inexperience blue line decimated by injuries, the Flyers needed a veteran to steady the ship. But they didn’t have one. Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas and even the relatively experienced Shayne Gostisbehere, in his third NHL season, were all sidelined.

So Ivan Provorov stepped up and took the lead.

Ivan Provorov is 20 years old.

Provorov impressed fans and media with his poise during his rookie season. Like Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, Provorov appears to have improved by leaps and bounds during the early portion of his second season. And, like Wentz, Provorov has taken a leadership role on the ice.

With so many defensemen injured, head coach Dave Hakstol leaned heavily on Provorov during the past week. The Flyers played five games in eight days. Provorov played at least 27 minutes in each game, with a high of 29:51 – nearly half the game – during Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to the Blackhawks.

Provorov’s only points during those five games were three assists during a 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes, and he was a minus-1 in plus/minus rating during that stretch. But numbers can’t begin to convey how important Provorov is to the Flyers. He makes so many subtle plays that don’t show up in the box score. He moves the puck well, gets his stick in passing lanes and takes good angles toward opposing puck carriers.

The one number that indicates Provorov’s importance to the Flyers was the 10 shots he blocked during Thursday’s 2-0 victory in St. Louis. Blocking 10 shots, which ties a Flyers record, indicates a willingness to sacrifice one’s body. But it also demonstrates that Provorov was properly positioned in the shooting lanes. During one shorthanded sequence, Provorov blocked three straight shots from Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko.

As a rookie, Provorov won the Barry Ashbee Award as the Flyers’ best defenseman. He might have a lock on that award for many years to come. And he might even become the Flyers’ first Norris Trophy winner.

The Flyers have a lot of youth on their blue line, but they already have a veteran presence in 20-year-old Ivan Provorov.


HE’S THE MAN(NING): Another defenseman who stepped up when three others were sidelined was Brandon Manning. After being a healthy scratch at times this season, Manning played in all five of the games in the past eight days, registering his first two goals of the season.

Manning’s goal during a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs (he also added an assist) broke a streak of 53 games without a goal. He appeared to break that streak one game earlier against the Senators, but the goal was overturned after a replay review, although the evidence hardly seemed conclusive. In a bit of poetic justice, Manning’s apparent goal against the Blues on Thursday was initially waived off due to alleged goaltender interference by Jakub Voracek, but the call was reversed after a replay review showed that the goalie and defenseman initiated the contact with Voracek, who was stationed outside of the crease.

Manning’s offense is welcomed, but his value has never been about his offense. At his best, he provides steady defense and a physical presence, and that is what he’s done while averaging 20 minutes per game during the recent five-game stretch when the Flyers desperately needed him to play well.


ROTTEN GUESTS: The Flyers’ 2-0 win Thursday was the Blues’ first loss at home this season. The Blues had entered the game tied for the best record in the NHL.


WAITING IS OVER: One of the beneficiaries of the injuries to three Flyers defensemen was Will O’Neill. When Shayne Gostisbehere was sidelined with an “upper body” injury, the Flyers called up defenseman Mark Alt to replace him in the lineup. Sam Morin was unavailable due to an injury sustained with the Phantoms. With the Flyers going on a road trip, they called up O’Neill as an emergency defenseman.

The emergency came when Radko Gudas left Wednesday’s loss to the Blackhawks with an “upper body” injury. O’Neill was pressed into duty the next night, a 2-0 victory over the Blues.

O’Neill, 29, made his NHL debut 4,198 days after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, who no longer exist (they became the Winnipeg Jets). O’Neill’s first NHL shift only lasted four seconds due to a penalty on Flyers forward Dale Weise, but O’Neill played 9 minutes, 25 seconds in his long-awaited NHL debut.

With Gostisbehere back in the lineup Saturday against the Avalanche, O’Neill was scratched. But you have to admire the perseverance O’Neill displayed in finally making it to the NHL after 11 years.


COUTURIER KEEPS ROLLING: The Flyers held their collective breath Thursday when Sean Couturier left the game after a blindside hit by former Flyer Brayden Schenn. The hit to Couturier’s head drew an interference penalty. Fortunately for the Flyers, Couturier returned later in the game.

The Flyers can’t afford to lose Couturier, who leads the team in goals (nine) and plus/minus rating (plus-11) and is tied for the team lead in points (18). He and Jakub Voracek are tied for fourth in the NHL (with Maple Leafs sensation Auston Matthews) in points, he is tied for sixth in goals and fifth in plus/minus rating.

Entering Saturday’s game against the Avalanche, Couturier was actually leading the NHL in even-strength points since March 1. He is also first in the NHL in plus/minus rating (plus-28) during that period, with a comfortable margin over his closest competitor.


GO FOURTH AND CONQUER: Although the focus has been on Sean Couturier, the top line and the young defense, the Flyers’ fourth line has quietly been very effective. Center Scott Laughton and forward Michael Raffl and Taylor Leier have only produced two goals – both by Laughton – but they have produced plenty of scoring opportunities and kept the puck in the offensive zone. That’s why nobody on the line has a negative plus/minus rating despite not scoring many goals.


CARNIVAL: As was the case last season, the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival will be held in November this season instead of in the traditional February/March period. This year’s carnival, which is a great time to meet current and former players and have fun while raising money for worthy causes, is Nov. 19.


LIGHT SCHEDULE: The Flyers have four days off before hosting the Blackhawks on Thursday (7 p.m.). The Flyers will then host the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m.) in the first half of a home-and-home series that doesn’t conclude until the following Tuesday (Nov. 14).

Flyers Notebook: Voracek off to fast start

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

Nobody was overly concerned when Jakub Voracek didn’t score during the Flyers’ first nine games. In fact, nobody was concerned. That’s because Voracek was playing so well.

Voracek was leading the Flyers in assists before scoring goals this past week against the Senators and Maple Leafs. Not only was he leading the Flyers in assists, but he was leading them in shots on goal. It was just a matter of time until those shots started finding the back of the net.

Voracek broke the ice during Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Senators, and then scored on a gorgeous move against the Leafs. Voracek came down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Claude Giroux. When the defenseman took away the pass, Voracek went around him and made a right-to-left move toward the front of the net before slipping the puck past goalie Frederik Andersen.

In case anyone is unduly concerned that the goals will make Voracek a little more selfish, later in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs he made a beautiful bank pass off the boards from the Flyers’ defensive zone to Giroux on the left wing. Giroux ripped a shot high past Andersen, restoring the Flyers’ two-goal lead.

Passing has become Voracek’s specialty. He is second in the NHL in assists (14) and third in points (16) despite having just two goals. The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos leads in both categories.

Although the Flyers would probably prefer that Voracek’s assists-to-goals ratio be better than 7:1, nobody will complain as long as he keeps playing at a high level.


COUTURIER EXCELS: Fans may be accustomed to seeing Jakub Voracek piling up points, but that’s not the case with Sean Couturier. But Couturier is tied for eighth in the NHL in goals (seven) and points (13).

But Couturier’s improved offense has not come at the expense of his outstanding defensive play. He is tied for sixth in the NHL in plus/minus rating (plus-10). Although shorthanded situations don’t figure into plus/minus ratings – except for shorthanded goals – Couturier’s defensive excellence was on display Saturday when the Flyers were facing a 5-on-3 situation against Toronto’s terrific power play.

First, Couturier won the defensive zone cleanly, allowing the Flyers to ice the puck. Then he broke up an attempted entry into the Flyers’ zone and sent the puck down the ice. Those two fine plays killed off the 32 seconds remaining in the first penalty without the Maple Leafs even getting set up in the offensive zone during their two-man advantage.


UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Sean Couturier should be even higher on the NHL leaders list for goals, points and plus-minus ranking. With the goalie pulled during Thursday’s game in Ottawa, Couturier followed up his own rebound in close and put the puck across the goal line with 56 remaining to tie the game. The puck was in goalie Craig Anderson’s glove, but the glove was clearly across the goal line.

But referee Steve Kozari ruled that he had determined the play was dead even though had not yet blown the whistle. He told the video replay officials that he was in the process of blowing his whistle because he lost sight of the puck.

The Flyers lost a goal earlier in the game because it was determined that Jordan Weal had interfered with Anderson. Weal was in the crease when Anderson initiated the minor contract. Weal then quickly left the crease as Brandon Manning was firing his shot, which went past Anderson for an apparent goal. After a replay review, the goal was waived off.

The Manning goal was a judgment call, although it should be noted that Kozari was in perfect position to see the contact between Weal and Anderson and initially seemed to dismiss Anderson’s complaint of interference. On Couturier’s goal, however, there are sections of the NHL rulebook that seem to be in conflict. It all depends on how the ruling is applied.

Although the replay review is intended to get the call correct, it’s clear that there is still a subjective portion of the decision-making process. And I can’t help thinking that in both cases in Ottawa, particularly on Couturier’s tying goal in the final minute, that the decision would have been reversed if the uniforms had been reversed.


THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART: Brandon Manning hadn’t scored in 52 games, so when his apparent goal was disallowed against the Senators, it had to hurt. But Manning didn’t let the streak continue much longer. He scored the Flyers’ first goal Saturday against the Maple Leafs, jumping up into the play and finishing off a beautiful passing play with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. Manning also assisted on Claude Giroux’s goal that restored the Flyers’ two-goal cushion.


BATTLE OF ATTRITION: There is no such thing as having too many defensemen. The Flyers have been using six defensemen since Andrew MacDonald was lost for an estimated 4-6 weeks with a “lower body” injury after blocking a shot against the Oilers. Now the Flyers may have lost Shayne Gostisbehere, although the extent of his injury hasn’t been determined yet. Gostisbehere, who leads all NHL defensemen with 12 assists, left Saturday’s win over the Maple Leafs with an “upper body” injury after being driven face-first into the boards on a hit by Leafs forward Leo Komarov.

It’s possible that Samuel Morin’s return to the Phantoms after the season-opening four-game road trip will be short-lived. But that will give the Flyers three rookie and one second-year player in their defensive corps.


INCONSISTENCY: How was Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas given a major penalty and game misconduct for charging on a heavy hit during the loss to the Senators and the Leafs’ Leo Komarov wasn’t penalized for his hit from behind on Shayne Gostisbehere? Komorov appeared to extend his arms while driving Gostisbehere face-first into the boards from behind.


PATRICK OUT: Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, has missed the past two games with an “upper body” injury after being drilled into the boards during Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Ducks.


TOCCHET RETURNS: Former Flyer Rick Tocchet returns to Wells Fargo Center on Monday (7 p.m.) as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are winless this season after 11 games, with their only point coming in an overtime loss.


UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: The Flyers have already completed their season series with the Ducks and Predators, splitting with the Ducks and losing a pair of one-goal decisions to the Predators. The Flyers will also play the Blackhawks twice within the first nine days of November. Seventeen of the Flyers’ first 21 games are against the Western Conference. In fact, after the road games this past week against the Senators and Maple Leafs, the Flyers don’t play an Eastern Conference team again until a home-and-home series with the Islanders, with Thanksgiving sandwiched in the middle.


LOOKAHEAD: After Monday’s game against the Coyotes, the Flyers return to the road Wednesday (8 p.m.) and Thursday (8 p.m.) against the Blackhawks and Blues, respectively. Brayden Schenn, whom the Flyers traded on draft day, has three goals and seven assists and, most surprisingly, is plus-7 for the Blues, who are undefeated at home and lead the Central Division. The Flyers will return home to face the Avalanche on Saturday (7 p.m.).

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Every out of Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter