Photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Mason practiced again today, but he looked tired, “beat,” and like something more was bothering him by the end of practice, according to the assembled scriptuals. He was seen on the bench doing neck stretches– a sign that he’s still somewhat bothered by his “whiplash” symptoms.

It’ll be Ray Emery again, with Cal Heeter being rererecalled from the Phantoms, who played their last game today, to back him up.

None of this will matter, of course, if the Flyers can’t score a goal.

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Many more pics after the jump (updating). Continue Reading…

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My phone rang yesterday. I didn’t answer it. I never answer it. I currently have 16 missed calls and voice mails, 6,044 unread emails and 57 unread text messages. I’m not popular (only the emails are really impacted by the site), I’m just lazy. But when I saw I had a voicemail from an unknown Minnesota number, I had to listen. The call was from someone (call him G, for short) claiming to be “from the Philadelphia Union.” He used my first name and said that he was sorry to have missed my call, which I most certainly didn’t place. That piqued my interest. I figured it had something to do with the site. Maybe it was someone in the promotions department trying to spread the word about an event, or someone from the PR department responding to my All-Star Game request from two years ago. I tried to think of anyone I contacted regarding the Union. That list is small, and I was drawing a blank. But I called back anyway.

I found out rather quickly that G wasn’t from the Union specifically. He was from the MLS, and he was trying to sell me tickets. Ostensibly.

Ignoring his scummy sales tactic of claiming that he was returning a call I didn’t place, I humored him for a moment and then informed him that I wasn’t interested in Union tickets and that I only called him back because I thought he was actually with the Union and that he might have been calling me based on the fact that I run a sports blog. I’m sure G rolled his eyes at me identifying myself as a “sports blogger” and assumed that I was just some guy who posted his incoherent thoughts about the local team when he had a few moments to spare (which wouldn’t be entirely untrue…). Maybe he knew exactly who he was calling (he did have my name and number). But I didn’t bother telling him that I make a good living running the blog and that 250k people read it each month. I just politely told him that I wasn’t interested in buying tickets.

He pushed back. Continue Reading…

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Or so he says.

As we’ve mentioned a few times, Craig Berube’s Game 1 strategy was a wait-and-see, dump-and-chase approach. He instructed his forwards – specifically the Orange and Black Line – to dump the puck in Ryan McDonagh’s general direction, take him off of it, and then try to score while he licks his wounds. It worked. Once. And then there was a whole lot of nothing.

So what to do for Game 2? The exact opposite, apparently. Berube told reporters today that the Flyers will try to skate the puck into the zone and rely on fewer dump-ins.

But will they really? Now we’re getting into head game territory. The Flyers are well aware that it is quite difficult to gain the blue line carrying the puck against Rangers defenders. So why would they try? And why would they tell the Rangers they’re doing it? I call BS. And I still stick by my street hockey philosophy to beat a stingy defenseman– taking a slap shot at his face.

Also: Steve Mason practiced today. So… that’s looking good for Sunday. But the problem isn’t defense and goaltending against the Rangers. It’s biscuitizing the basket.

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You may be surprised to learn that Marcus Hayes, known for injecting race into discussions that shouldn’t involve race, wrote a column today ripping the very white Sam Hinkie, whose efforts thus far have been almost universally applauded by pundits, for being a nerdy wizard, while calling Thaddeus Young, who made $8.6 million to play basketball this season, a hero.

To the excerpt machine!

Oddly, inexcusably, one voice will be missing: the voice of the producer of this lovable mess:

Sam Hinkie, the invisible general manager.

So far, he has generally managed to remain silent.

He destroyed every semblance of the Sixers’ core, implemented an evaluation process at least partly based on analytics, the use of which apparently requires an advanced degree in mathematics, a pocket protector and a Merlin hat.

Then – poof! – Hinkie disappeared.

At midday yesterday, Hinkie had yet to complete his meetings with the players, so his absence from the season-ending handshake party was excusable.

That he is not at Harris’ side today?

Inexcusable.

Certainly, Harris will endorse the job done so far by Hinkie, his handpicked Wonderboy, despite these facts:

* The Sixers began the season with four viable NBA starters but finished with just two, one of whom could ask for his walking papers in the next few weeks.

* They tied the NBA record for consecutive losses.

* And they got zero minutes of playing time from their No. 1 post player for the second year in a row.

Uh, Sam?

Never mind.

Um, what? What exactly does Marcus expect Hinkie to say– “Yes, everything is going exactly according to plan and we were successful in our quest to field the worst basketball team we possible could without getting fined by the league for throwing games”?

It’s fairly obvious to anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention that the Sixers having only two viable starters and tying the NBA record for consecutive losses was very much by design in an effort to get multiple high draft picks in a draft stocked with talent. Marcus knows this. He has to know this. But he wrote the column anyway, criticizing the guy who, in an admittedly small sample size, has done all the things people wanted and expected him to do. 

If Marcus would’ve just stopped there, this wouldn’t be worth discussing. But nope. He continued. Let’s rip Sam Hinkie for a job well-done, wax poetic about Thaddeus Young, and then throw in what borders on a dangerous landowner-slave reference just for fun:

Wisdom was sought, then, from those less-equipped to dispense it.

Young completed a heroic season uninjured but not undaunted. Selfless, hungry and nearing his peak, Young yesterday dropped the facade he has worn since the Sixers traded away three starters. He said he would insist on knowing the particulars of the Sixers’ plan going forward, and, if he didn’t like it, or if he was not told, he would ask to be traded.

Young, as good a soldier who ever served in this town, has earned this sort of impudence. Hinkie sold off the farm but kept Young to pull the plow, to keep the rows straight, to lead the herd. Young did all of that.

Does Young deserve a preemptive extension?

Only Hinkie can say, and Hinkie’s not saying anything about anything.

WHAT AM I READING?

To Marcus’ credit, he went on to write very nice things about Brett Brown. But he then returned to bashing Hinkie and compared him to Joe Banner:

Hinkie certainly is smart, organized, and prepared; but then, so was Joe Banner.

Over a 20-year span in Philadelphia, Banner revolutionized the football business market; established a template for an era of NFL transactions; and led the Eagles franchise to its most glorious era.

Nevertheless, Banner’s lack of appeal and his inability to suffer fools made him a pariah. At the first chance, Banner was run out of town on a rail.

Perhaps the Sixers are simply protecting their Wonderboy. Hinkie cannot put his foot in his mouth if he keeps his mouth shut.

The team is diminished for that.

So is Hinkie; at least, he is this week, when only one significant voice will be missing.

The only one that matters.

This is a really bad column.

H/T to (@mikejlenz)

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Photo: Eagles

Certain younger Eagles might be the most likable group of athletes in the city right now. Combined with the team’s newfound social media efforts to actually embrace other local teams – a long way from its apparent attitude during the Banner and Reid years – guys like Jason Kelce, Connor Barwin, Brent Celek and even Riley Cooper are making it even easier to root for the Birds. Just normal dudes, doing dude things.

Last night, Cooper and Kelce were at Xfinity Live! watching the Flyers game like everymen:

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This after the Eagles tweeted the picture of the group wearing Flyers jerseys and a video of them chanting “let’s go Flyers.”

And then there’s Barwin and Kelce playing poolside beer pong in cutoff customized Phillies Jerseys:

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pic via Barwin’s Instagram

And Kelce in an OD shirt. And Cooper, Celek and Kelce at McFadden’s.

Good luck finding any Phillies just chilling at the bar.

Uh Oh

Kyle Scott —  April 18, 2014 — 71 Comments
Photo credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start off with a positive– the only one from Game 1.

The Flyers’ first goal was a thing of beauty and it was exactly how Craig Berube drew it up. Here’s what Frank Seravalli wrote in the Dailly News yesterday, describing Chief’s intended ritual. I’ve accompanied the quote with screenshots:

In one word, Berube described the style he wants Claude Giroux, Voracek and Scott Hartnell to play against McDonagh as “unfulfilling.” Unless they have a clear break to carry it in the offensive zone, Berube has instructed his players to dump the puck in New York’s end…

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particularly in McDonagh’s direction…

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to see whether they can pin the should-be Norris Trophy candidate behind his net…

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and create scoring opportunities that way.

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Beautiful, Craig. Now, about the rest of the game.

I know we all want to Akes Jason a question. Why, rookie, did you two-hand Carl Hagelin in the face and take a four-minute double-minor that effectively cost your team the game? But as much as we’d like to blame Jason Akeson for that play, we can’t. I’ve watched it 20 times now and there’s just no way you can really find fault with what he did. He was actually back-checking really well on the play. He caught up to Hagelin in the neutral zone and tried to remove him from the puck. It didn’t work. Too much intensity, too little size. But Akeson played a good game. Though I don’t think he played as well as everyone – on the broadcast, post-game show and Twitter – was giving him credit for. He stood out because we were paying attention and because he looked like he belonged. Good for him, but you should look like you belong in a playoff game. It’s maddening that the Flyers went out and acquired Steve Downie during the season to add some firepower and then scratched him in a playoff game in favor of a guy who had never been to New York. That’s right, this was Akeson’s first time in New York City. “Skyscraper after skyscraper,” he told reporters. Golly gee. He automatically flunks one of my character tests: never trust an adult who’s never been to New York. It’s… weird. Especially for a professional athlete. Sometimes you just have to go to New York by accident. Sometimes you have a connecting flight in Newark and take the train over for a few hours. Sometimes you’re Kevin McAllister and your family is in Florida and you’re in New York. Shit happens. But it’s weird that you’ve never been to Manhattan, Jason.

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Now he’s playing in a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. What could go wrong? Well, he could let emotions get the best of him and lose control. It’s… exactly the sort of thing you worry about when a guy is playing in his first meaningful game ever. And that’s what happened. It’s not Akeson’s fault– he played fine. But why, if you think you might use a guy on the power play in the playoffs, wouldn’t you give him more burn during the season? Why didn’t you take him to New York and show him Times Square? It doesn’t make much sense.

As for the rest of the game: The Flyers were fine up until the penalty. They were getting outplayed by the Rangers, but, like Berube wanted, they were being patient. The Rangers’ shots were coming mostly from the outside. The Flyers had chances, too. It was a winnable game. They could’ve stolen Game 1. But it was over once the Rangers took the lead. The Flyers completely fell apart. Not a great effort overall, but a horrible third period. They have to win on Sunday.