By the time the clock strikes midnight here on the east coast, the Liberty Ballers will already be in full swing. It's not as if the local basketball team needed anything else to divert the fans' attention, but truth be told, the Sixers taking on the Lakers may just be the perfect post-countdown distraction.
Philly is 3-3 on their current eight-game road trip, and coming off of a thoroughly entertaining win against the Suns in which they dropped a season-high 123 to punctuate a 13-point victory. The Lakers were recently losers of three straight before picking up a win on Wednesday, but love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant is always a spectacle.
The Sixers will be without Andre Iguodala for the third game in a row, seventh this season. Iguodala's Achilles tendon continues to be a bother, and the decision has been made to rest him for an additional five games. His absence could have a ripple effect on the team defense, which managed to hold Kobe to nine points two weeks ago.
On the bright side, the injury has resulted in increased minutes for Evan Turner, and the rookie is beginning to show glimpses of the player the Sixers thought they selected with the second overall pick in the draft. He had one of the best nights of his young career so far in Phoenix, dropping a season-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
Turner did not see the floor during the club's previous meeting with the Lakers, but he could play a huge role tonight. The Sixers hung with them through three quarters until a poor shooting effort finally caught up with them in the final round. A player who can create his own shot, plus space for teammates, could have been the difference.
Wherever you happen to be enjoying this evening has most likely already tuned in to Dick Clark by now. Whether you're watching the game or not, on behalf of everybody here at The700Level, thanks for reading, and have a safe and happy New Year.
>> Iguodala to miss Sixers' next five games with injury [CSN]
Photo by Scott Cunningham / Getty Images
We’ve had a big year. Not only as Phillies fans, but as purveyors of what we believe is one of the finest sources for Phillies news around. The Phillies had a hell of a season in 2010 and with the way things are shaping up, will give us an incredible 2011.
Here at Phillies Nation, we’ve been able to bring you a new website filled with the bells and whistles. It’s not without issue – we understand that fully. Everyone behind the scenes is working diligently to bring the best possible PhilliesNation.com. On top of that we have so many cool things in the works that we’re excited about, it truly will be a wonderful 2011.
We want to thank each and every one of you for coming to us to portray your Phillies fandom. Here’s to an exception 2011, not only for the Phillies, but for you all as well. This is one big family!
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM PHILLIES NATION!
CSNPhilly viewers name the Flyers' 3-0 Comeback the Philly sports moment of the year
|2010 - Sergei Bobrovsky||25||1412||15||5||58||2.46||715||657||.919||0|
No confirmation for Anaheim, but presumably Hiller:
|2010 - Jonas Hiller||34||1939||17||13||84||2.60||1082||998||.922||2|
After the jump, lineups, questions to answer and our in-game discussion.
- Playing the back end of back-to-back games on the road could lead to a poor performance. Does it happen?
- Sergei Bobrovsky is back in net for the first time since getting hung out to dry against Florida. And after sitting in the press box. How's he look?
- The Ducks are not a very good team. Can the Flyers take advantage?
- It's New Year's Eve, so does Joffrey Lupul start the party early by spiking Richards' and Carters' Gatorade?
Go Flyers. Happy New Year. And Drink Responsibly ®
The Flyers began working on their new year's resolutions last night, with all new lines and a goalie getting his first start of the season. Lavvy will roll with the same new-look lines, and why the hell wouldn't he? Separated for the first time since last postseason, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and Ville Leino each procreated with their new mates, Mike Richards had a four-point night, and Claude Giroux had three. Seven goals against a good team in their own barn? Yeah don't change the forward lines.
Sergei Bobrovsky will return to the crease to try to fix the little goals against problem the Flyers currently find themselves having.Fifteen goals have besieged a combination of their three (3) goaltenders in the past three games, during which Bob has seen only relief work. At one point in this season, which isn't even half over, he was the clearcut #1 goalie. Perhaps we were premature in that anointing, but I still think the best bet is that Bob is the best bet.
The Ducks will be an important man short tonight, with captain Ryan Getzlaf sitting out with a fractured sinus something or other, suffered when he was hit in the face with a puck on Tuesday. They're not a great scoring team, so the loss of their top center will be felt. We'll call it even with former Duck Chris Pronger out. Getzlaf's replacement centering the top line and PP1 is Bobby Ryan, a local boy all of Philadelphia loves around trade season.
Been a great year for our Flyers, and we're looking forward to even better in 2011. As always, thanks for reading and commenting. Happy new year to our Flyers crew.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Before a packed house at the Pavilion, the Villanova Wildcats and Temple Owls sent out yet another awesome reminder of just how special college basketball can be in the city of Philadelphia. Last night marked the first match up of two Big 5 programs simultaneously ranked in the AP top-25 since 1988. It didn't disappoint.
The play was physical; the refs were awful (both ways); the crowd was agitated even before the jump; and, at no time did the game ever seem out of reach for either side. That last point was never more apparent than the unfolding of an improbable Temple steal, and a drilled three-pointer by Lavoy Allen with just 2.4 seconds left on the game clock. Unfortunately for Allen and the Owls, Villanova guard Maalik Wayns would, fittingly, ice his two free-throws after getting fouled on the in-bound to end the matter at 78-74. If I'm Maalik Wayns, I'm feeling pretty good about myself this morning. His outstanding performance and more after the jump...With all the attention paid to Stokes and Fisher, obviously justified attention at that, it can be easy to overlook Wayns in the 'Nova back court. His play last night should have just about ended that fashion. Though he was only 6-14 from the floor, and thus far from efficient, he absolutely murdered the Owls down the stretch from the foul line. Wayns would finish with a total of 21 points, converting 9 of 9 from the stripe. The kid made baskets and got fouled when his team needed it most. The preposterous turn-around jumper he nailed just before the buzzer at the end of the first half gave the 'Cats considerable momentum in the second after surviving a difficult opening frame (never mind the fact that I was sitting right there, and still think it might have been a travel/self-pass).
Getting back to one of the 'Cats we're more familiar with, Corey Stokes was frightening from long range. Timely three-pointers would tie the game and then ultimately reclaim the lead for Nova after a 13-0 Temple run had the 'Cats reeling midway though the second. As an unapologetic Temple supporter (a fact that should be overwhelming apparent on this website by now), at no point was I ever comfortable seeing the ball in Stokes' hands in the last ten minutes. He would end the night leading all scorers with 24.
Though certainly not up to the level of Stokes and Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou also turned in a solid effort last night, chipping in with 14. And, albeit in limited action (just 14 minutes), I really enjoyed the play of sophomore Isaiah Armwood off the bench.
As for those in the Cherry & Black, equally impassioned efforts abounded. Lavoy Allen would lead the way with 22, followed by Juan Fernandez at 20, and Ramone Moore at 16. The final totals for Moore and Fernandez, however, fail to tell the whole story. Ramone was electric in the first half, driving to the bucket and knocking down from the outside. He led all scorers at the break with 13. Unfortunately, that also means he contributed just three in the second half, including one bucket with less than one minute to play.
Fernandez, in many ways, followed suit. While he certainly opened the second half like a bat out of hell, he struggled to keep his cool as the game wore on and his shot began to disappear. With roughly seven minutes left, he was bowled over by Wayns some thirty feet from the basket on a play where his feet were clearly set. Rather than immediately hopping up and getting back in the play, he laid there in outrage. Moments later, Stokes would drill a three from the opposite corner, necessitating a time out by coach Fran Dunphy. During that time out, there was a thirty second period where I was convinced one official was about to T the Argentine.
Though nothing ever came of it, his play was drastically altered from there on out. Juan began forcing ill-advised jumpers and passes. The not-so-delicious icing on the cake came in the form of his unfortunate foul out with 57 seconds remaining, expending his last personal on a reach-in from 25 feet.
In his defense, because I know I've been ripping him a little, that kid plays with so much heart it can be difficult to criticize him. Did he make some questionable decisions in the last seven minutes? Yes. Did he want it just as bad, if not more, than any other player on that court? Yes.
And, when you get right down to it, that was really the message of the whole night. Though one team obviously had to lose, every one of those athletes made you proud to watch a basketball game in Philadelphia. They gave everything they had, and it was privilege to watch. I'd be far more upset today if the affair wasn't such an amazing experience. Now, if only they played it at the Palestra...
Stray Observations: Pena will not get enough credit for boarding the way he did, because he turns the ball over and takes dumb fouls...T.J. DiLeo will not get enough credit for breaking the press in substitution, because he just won't...Speaking of which, Villanova plays awesome pressure D, pressing and trapping...I'd like to see more of it when then hit the meat of their Big East schedule...It's a nice little wrinkle they too often get away from in-conference...Sell out crowd at the Pavilion...Somehow a 20-30 person Temple student section congregated directly in the middle of the Villanova student section...I mean, they had prime real estate...right behind the bucket...right behind the band...there were 'Nova seniors in the rafters and, still, the Cherry Crusade marked out their territory...anybody have any info on this?...Cheer that guy 20 rows back who kept shouting for Temple to "Get the 'freaking' ball into Allen"...Boo the Wildcat for touching me.
This post was written by PN contributor Jeff Nelson. Welcome Jeff to the Phillies Nation squad.
Headcase. Immature. Soft. Unprepared. He wouldn’t pitch on three-days rest if asked. He’s not a big game pitcher. He sounds like a whiny 7-year old – these were some of the descriptions I heard and read from many Phillies fans following Cole Hamels’ disappointing 2009 season. Heck, some people even wanted him traded after what he said during the ’09 World Series. To the naked eye, Cole just wasn’t right two years ago.
Fast forward a year later and Hamels all the sudden ‘found his game.’ He ‘flicked a switch’ or ‘put his game face on.’ He was more prepared heading in to 2010 or he was cured from the Verducci effect. I’m obviously being a bit facetious with those descriptions. So if determination and perfection weren’t the reasons behind Hamels’ resurgence as an elite pitcher, then what was?
In general, most of Hamels’ ’08 and ’09 rate stats were eerily similar. His K/9, BB/9, HR/9, GB%, FB%, and LD% all barely varied. His BABIP and strand rates on the other hand differed greatly. Cole’s BABIP ballooned from .270 in 2008 to .325 in 2009, by far the highest of his young career. Indeed, Cole was extremely unlucky in 2009 and he didn’t pitch nearly as bad as his 4.32 ERA suggested. Last year, his BABIP regressed right around his career norm, which is slightly lower than league average.
Cole’s strand rate also jumped in the right direction from 72.1% in ’09 to a more than healthy 82.7% in ’10. Part of this is a result from an increase in both his GB% (40.4% to 45.4%) and punchouts (7.81/9IP to 9.10/9IP). The other part stems from the decrease in his BABIP.
While I think it’s safe to say he probably won’t leave runners on base at this clip this year, I still think he can be well above average next year if his rate stats don’t plummet harshly.
Hamels’ 2010 SIERA of 3.19 (good for 10th among starters) did not fluctuate much from his sparkling 3.06ERA. In other words, he really is that good and he is very likely to put up a similar ERA next year. I’m happy to point out that two other Phillies starters also finished ahead of Hamels in SIERA, so he’s in very good company (Halladay with a league leading 2.93 SIERA and Cliff Lee with a 3.03 SIERA).
As impressive as Hamel’s 2010 campaign was, a closer look shows he was absolutely dominant in the second half. Cole made 15 appearances after the all-star break, posting a miniscule 2.23 ERA, a K/BB ratio approaching 5/1, a 9.7 K/9 and a .603 OPS.
The only blemish on Hamels’ 2010 resume was his win/loss record and that’s something you cannot fault him for. Rather, the paltry 3.66 runs/game he received serves as a much better culprit. He deserves much better than his record indicates, but I guess that’s why they play the games.
Jeff’s Grade: 9.3
PAT GALLEN’S GRADE: 9.2 – Hamels was sensational and there is still room for improvement. He struggled a bit through the first month but turned it around to have an incredible season. So exciting to watch this “kid” mature into a top-flight, number-one pitcher.
It was the ugliest, weakest Cup-clinching goal in perhaps the history of Cup-clinching goals. We all know exactly what happened. Patrick Kane flies down the wing, gets below the dot, and throws a shot on net, likely hoping for a rebound or something to pop out in front where Andrew Ladd can bang it home.
Instead, it went in. The Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. (You have no obligation to watch this video.)
That damned five-hole. Get the paddle down faster next time you're in overtime of the Cup Finals and you need to win or watch the other team celebrate on your ice, man.
That's where our story ends up, last night in Los Angeles.
Leighton hadn't played in a real NHL game since that Kane goal. What are the chances that the next goal he gives up in the NHL, SIX MONTHS LATER, is EXACTLY THE SAME F'N GOAL?
Oh, nah. That's just too funny to be rea---- OH COME ON.
It's a little different, but the mistakes are the same. Paddle isn't down fast enough (or, in this case, at all), legs aren't closed, he's just... not ready. It's a bit weirder of an angle on the shot, too. Ryan Smyth shoots it from below the goal line instead of the circle, but there's obviously no reason that should't be stopped.
Hey, at least nobody won a Stanley Cup on this one.
To be fair to Leights, there was a lot of time off, and he admitted that he sucked after the game. And even still, he did get much better as the game went on.
Hopefully this is just a silly coincidence and not a case of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
- Recaps of last night's game: [BSH] [Jewels From The Crown] [CSNPhilly] [Inquirer] [Philly Sports Daily] [Daily News] [NHL.com]
- What happened to Danny Briere and was Nikolay Zherdev benched? [Philly Sports Daily]
- The new line combos seemed to work: [Philly Sports Daily]
- John Stevens is quite happy in L.A. Here's a great story on how the former coach is adjusting to his new role: [CSNPhilly]
- Why starting Michael Leighton was the right call. If it's right before the game, it's right after the game: [Philly Sports Daily]
- The 10 greatest hockey goals of 2010: [Puck Daddy]
- Should the World Junior Championships be played somewhere warm instead of Buffalo, NY? [From The Rink]
- For those wondering, the number one story of the year was Mike Vick's redemption: [Philly Sports Daily]
With the Flyers coming off a pair of losses by a combined 11-2 count, Peter Laviolette made a clear statement that he expected things to change. For the first time this season, he started the game with four completely new lines, including breaking up the Leino-Briere-Hartnell line. The coach's message was clear, and his captain was more than willing to step up and carry it out.
Mike Richards sparked the Flyers early on in this one, and his swagger carried the team through a shaky start by Michael Leighton, and it was also a big reason why Kings starter Jonathan Bernier was sent to the bench before the second intermission.
It was a roller coaster game in LA, with a ton of freakish calls against both sides, but the Flyers were clearly the better team, winning 7-4. Highlights and video below.
Laviolette's revised lines started the game as follows:
The lines would see some rotation, with Zherdev and Carcillo notably going long stretches without much ice time in a game that featured a lot of special teams play. Both took penalties in the game, and Zherdev was scarce after his, missing the entire second period. Carcillo's penalty seemed to be a phantom call, and it's not uncommon for him to see limited minutes.
All eyes were on Leighton though, and he looked terrible early on. The Kings were aiming to test him early, knowing full well he hadn't started a game all season and he'd likely be rusty. Hopefully that will prove to be the reason for his early struggles, because he did seem to improve and solidify as the game went on. Leighton's first two goals allowed were just awful though, and the first—a weak, no-angle lob that beat him five-hole, was a painful reminder of the last goal he allowed in the Stanley Cup Finals. His second goal was almost as bad, also beating him between the legs, albeit with a deflection. It was still a must-save. Leighton looked like he was on morphine for most of the first period and some of the second, which was frustrating to watch given that the Flyers desperately needed to win, but it was understandable given the lengthy period he's spent away from game action.
But Leighton's offense picked him up by equalizing after each of those goals, and Richards factored heavily into both. While the goalie's play was cause for concern individually, the team was showing signs of life for the first time in its last three games. Richie set up Danny Briere for the Flyers' first goal, a goalie-freezing snipe by Danny in his 700th NHL game.
After Leighton let up the second goal to none other than former Flyer Justin Williams, but Richards led the charge to answer again, taking a great outlet feed from Claude Giroux the distance and making Bernier his bitch.
Richie would add two more points on the night (another goal and an assist), and he was in Bernier's head until the goalie was ultimately chased to the bench. Bernier twice came out of the crease after him, and while one of the interactions resulted in a penalty to Richards, the Flyers really needed some swagger after getting their asses kicked in Vancouver, and Richie provided exactly that against the Kings.
Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Kings saw their goalie chased for the second time in as many games, each having given up six goals in less than two periods. But the game wasn't locked away for the Flyers until midway through the third, because the Kings were able to capitalize on two power play opportunities in a wild second period to stop the bleeding; each Kings PPG came after the Flyers had scored a pair of unanswered goals, two of which also came on the power play.
The refs were quick with the whistles in this one, at times calling penalties that didn't show up at all in the the replays we saw. It went both ways though, so we'll spare you the whining here.
Scott Hartnell scored the first Flyers goal of the second period, directing a pass by Giroux past Bernier with his skate. It went to video review but was surprisingly kept as a goal; while there was no "distinct kicking motion," we've certainly seen lesser skate direction goals waived off this season.
Richie would pot the next one, but James van Riemsdyk deserves a lot of the credit for the pass he made to set it up. Watch the moment of patience that set up this play:
Richards was similarly deft in setting up Jeff Carter later in the period:
That came on a 5 on 3 for the Flyers, but it was also the result of another LAVVY TIMEOUT. Richards would get 2 minutes for hurting Bernier's feelings, and even though Bernier came out of the crease after Richards for the second time in the game (pictured at the top of the post), he wasn't whistled.
Riemer would ultimately chase Bernier from the net on a turn and burn that showed why he was the star of the Flyers' skills competition last week.
Ville Leino's insurance on the cake in the third period was pretty similar, highlighting again how many guys on this team can score at any given time.
Their line may have been broken up, but each of Briere, Leino, and Hartnell found the twine.
Bill Clement pointed out that the Kings entered the game with the fewest shots allowed in the Western Conference, boasting a stingy defense and excellent goaltending. The Flyers visited them at an opportune time, and they took advantage of that opportunity, burning the Kings for their most goals allowed of the season.
Leighton finished fairly well after the two disastrous goals in the first and the pair he let up in the second. The latter two both came on the power play, and one involved a great screen by Michal Handzus, but Leighton looked slow to react on both. Still, it was at least a positive to see him sharpen up as the game wore on, and Lavvy was unconcerned when addressing the press afterward. You leave that to us fans, Lavvy.
It was a loud, cocky win over a very good Western Conference team, which was just what the Flyers needed after two awful performances. Tomorrow night, another test awaits in Anaheim.
(Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Disclaimer: I saw nary a second of this game).
This is the best the Flyers have looked all year.
After the jump, questions answered and your comment of the night.
1. Michael Leighton's first game since... you know. What's the deal? Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Michael Leighton allowed four goals in this game.
2. Kimmo Timonen is playing, but you know he's not 100 percent. Does he show his injury? You jackasses didn't mention Kimmo Timonen's performance once in the comments, so who the hell knows?
3. Both teams were completely obliterated in their last games. Extra jump off the start? If by jump you mean a failure to close a five-hole, then yes, it started with jump. I read Martin Brodeur's autobiography, and he posits that jumping is not a sound method of goaltending. He did, however, have great things to say about Red Lobster.
4. Defensively, the Flyers have been terrible across the board in the last two. Any improvement in that department? According to my Algebra II teacher Mr. Evans, 4 < 6. Therefore, we have improvement in that department.
Comment of the Night:
To the tune of Auld Lang Syne
May Michael Leighton’s legs be shut
and the puck not go through the fiive
For puck’s sake Michael close your legs
now let’s get this fucker tied --KreiderDesigns
True story : Auld Lang Syne is one of the two songs I can play on piano.
I've had December 31st marked on my calendar for so long. Not because it's New Year's Eve, but because I thought I was going to get to watch Danny Syvret.
FLYERS AT KINGS: THIRD PERIOD THREAD
6-4 after two. Huh.
FLYERS AT KINGS: SECOND PERIOD THREAD
Words to live by there, Mike. 2-2 after one.
Michael Leighton in goal for the Flyers. It's his first start of the season.
After the jump, lineups, questions to answer and our in-game discussion.
- Michael Leighton's first game since... you know. What's the deal?
- Kimmo Timonen is playing, but you know he's not 100 percent. Does he show his injury?
- Both teams were completely obliterated in their last games. Extra jump off the start?
- Defensively, the Flyers have been terrible across the board in the last two. Any improvement in that department?