Saturday, October 25, 2014

Emery's stellar goaltending and Raffl's two goals lead Flyers to 4-2 win

Image courtesy
by Hal Greenblatt
Phanatic Hockey writer

Philadelphia, Pa -- Brayden Schenn’s power play goal off redirected a Jakub Voracek shot passed Detroit goalie Jonas Gustavsson to give Philadelphia a 4-2 over the Red Wings.

Michael Raffl added two goals and Nicklas Grossmann recorded his first of the season. Raffl also added an assist on Grossmann’s goal while Voracek and Michael Del Zotto each had two assists. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Mark Streit each recorded assists. Ray Emery was strong in net for Philadelphia, stopping 35-of-37 Detroit shots. The Flyers have now won two straight.

"Didn't play a very good game, but two points is two points," said head coach Craig Berube.

Riley Sheahan and Pavel Datysuk both scored for Detroit, each notching their first of the season. Andrej Nestrasil, Tomas Jurco, and Darren Helm all recorded assists. Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson was rarely challenged, but allowed 3 Flyer goals on 17 shots.

The debut of Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostibehere was overshadowed by a tightly checked, strong defensive hockey game. Despite two power plays in the first period, the Flyers failed to score and recorded only five shots on net. Detroit recorded the only tally of the first period on Sheahan’s first of the season.

The Flyers had a defensive lapse that allowed Sheahan an easy flip over the stick of Emery. Both Flyer defenseman followed Detroit’s Nestrasil to the corner, where he found a cutting Sheahan at 15:33 of the first period.

Philadelphia spent most of the second period stuck in their own end, as Detroit’s forecheck and stifling defense did not allow for a Philadelphia shot for the first fifteen-plus minutes of the second period. The Flyers finally broke through the Red Wings defense with just 1:39 remaining in the period.

Raffl took the puck to the right corner, where he left it for Bellemare. The French rookie found a cutting Grossmann, who snipped a one-timer passed the Detroit netminder for his first of the season, giving the Flyers a 1-1 tie heading into the final period.

The third period yielded the most action of the game, as Detroit and Philadelphia skated up and down the ice, registering chance after chance. The Flyers broke through at the 6:01 mark of the period, as Raffl recorded his first goal of the night.

Raffl, cutting down the middle of the ice, took a saucer pass from the blue line from Voracek that allowed the Hungarian a one-on-one chance against the Detroit netminder. Raffl wouldn’t miss this opportunity, as he placed a backhander top shelf to give the Flyers a short-lived 3-2 lead.

"He's working very hard, he's winning a lot of board battles, he's skating very hard," said Voracek on Raffl. "He's making the simple plays. He deserved those two goals tonight."

Just 42 seconds after Raffl’s goal, a defensive breakdown (and broken stick from Gostibehere) allowed Datsyuk, Detroit’s all-world forward alone, one-on-one with Emery. The Russian waited for the Flyers goaltender to make the first move and potted his first of the season.

"I was surprised he got that puck," Emery spoke of Datsyuk's goal. "It was going far right, but you try and do your best. That's a pretty talented player."

Philadelphia would eventually take the lead for good with just under nine minutes remaining. Detroit defenseman Nicklas Kronwall would be called for hooking and the Flyers vaunted power play would strike and score the first power play goal the Red Wings have allowed all season.

"It was a hard working power play," Voracek said. "We kept it going for a while in the offensive zone. I got the puck, I just turned around and I saw Schenner, high slot, and when the high slot guy is open, it's usually a good play. It's always dangerous. He did a good job and it was a huge goal."

The Flyers would play on their heels the rest of the way, denying all Detroit advances, as the team blocked 31 shots. Raffl would pot his second goal of the game, an empty-net tally that would give the home team a 4-2 victory.

"We finished the game way better than we started it, and that's something we'll take with us," said Grossmann.

The Flyers face Jeff Carter and the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Notes: Detroit allowed their first power play goal against on the season...Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostibehere recorded 12:27 of ice time...Jakub Voracek has recorded a point in seven of the Flyers eight games...The Flyers power play finished 1 of 5...The Flyers penalty kill did not allow a goal against in three opportunities...Flyers prospect Sam Morin attended the game as he recovers from an injury...

You can follow Hal Greenblatt on Twitter at @HMGreenblatt

Friday, October 24, 2014

Undercard announced for Hopkins-Kovalev

ATLANTIC CITY - History will be made on Saturday, Nov. 8 when the ageless Bernard Hopkins attempts to unify the light heavyweight world title against Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Before the HBO "World Championship Boxing" telecast, an array of top contenders and prospects from around the globe will enter the ring to showcase their skills on the world stage.

Pugilists from the Ukraine, Puerto Rico, France, Nicaragua, Cuba, Russia and the United States will be featured.

Fighting out of Gardanne, Bouches-du-Rhone, France, 29-year-old Nadjib Mohammedi (35-3, 21 KOs) turned professional in 2005 and is eager to step through the ropes for his second consecutive fight on U.S. shores. The WBA Continental and French champion at 175 pounds, Mohammedi is ranked number one in the world by the IBF, fourth by the WBA and eighth by the WBO, giving him every reason to watch the November 8 main event intently should he get by Kansas City southpaw Demetrius Walker (7-7-1, 4 KOs) in their 10-round matchup.

Another top contender attempting to make his case for a world title shot, Ukrainian heavyweight Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov (18-0-1, 11 KOs) is a 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist in search of world championship gold in the coming year. Currently ranked number two in the world by the IBF and number eight by the WBC, the 30-year-old owns wins over Tomasz Adamek, Derric Rossy and Tor Hamer, and on November 8, he will face off with Miami's Darnell "Ding-A-Ling-Man" Wilson (25-17-3, 21 KOs). A former world title challenger at cruiserweight, Wilson brought his power with him to the heavyweight division, where he most recently ended the 36-0 run of David Rodriguez last December with a sixth-round knockout win.

A native of Zhytomyr, Ukraine who now makes his home in Los Angeles, unbeaten light heavyweight Vyacheslav "Lion Heart" Shabranskyy (10-0, 8 KOs) is a former world champion in kickboxing who is now climbing up the 175-pound division in boxing after a lengthy amateur career. The 27-year-old power puncher will be tested in his first 10-round bout by San Juan, Puerto Rico's Emil Gonzalez (11-8-1, 8 KOs), an equally heavy-handed foe who has ended his last five wins in two rounds or less.

Southpaw slugger William "Chirizo" Gonzalez (27-5, 23 KOs) returns to the ring next month to take on Philadelphia's Eric "The Outlaw" Hunter (18-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout. Managua, Nicaragua's Gonzalez has won six of his last eight bouts, most recently knocking out Cornelius Lock in seven rounds for the vacant NABA title. The 28-year-old Hunter, who spoiled the perfect record of Jerry Belmontes in their 2012 bout, is coming off a 10-round decision win over Yenifel Vicente in March that earned him the vacant USBA title at 126 pounds.

Owner of amateur wins over the likes of former world champions Chad Dawson and Beibut Shumenov, 32-year-old Cuba native Sullivan Barrera (13-0, 8 KOs) is looking to make up for lost time after a late start in pro boxing, and he will look to move a step closer to title contention in his eight-round light heavyweight bout against Altamonte Springs, Florida's Rowland Bryant (18-3, 12 KOs). Already ranked in the top 15 by the WBA, Barrera has won three times so far in 2014, including knockouts of Lee Campbell and Eric Watkins. The 35-year-old Bryant has picked up two victories in 2014 thus far, stopping William Santiago and decisioning Rayco Saunders.

Also in action in a six-round super middleweight bout will be unbeaten Zubovo, Russia native Andrey Sirotkin (4-0, 1 KO) and Paterson, New Jersey's Michael Mitchell (3-4-2, 1 KO).

The opening bout of the evening will feature Chattanooga, Tennessee's Ryan Martin (8-0, 4 KOs) taking on Tucson, Arizona's Isaac Gonzalez (17-3,12 KOs) in a lightweight bout scheduled for four rounds.

Sixers trade for Teague

PHILADELPHIA - The Sixers have traded guard Casper Ware to the Brooklyn Nets for point guard Marquis Teague and a 2019 second-round draft pick.

Teague came to the Nets from the Chicago Bulls on January 21, 2014. He was originally selected out of Kentucky in the first round (29th overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft by Chicago.

Teague appeared in 40 games for the Bulls and the Nets last season, averaging 2.7 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 11.1 minutes per game. In 88 career games, Teague holds NBA averages of 2.3 points and 1.4 assists per game.

Ware appeared in nine games for Philadelphia last season, where he averaged 5.3 points and 1.1 assists in 12.9 minutes per game. He is expected to be released by the Nets.

The pick the Sixers receive will be the more favorable of Milwaukee's or Sacramento's second-round selection in 2019. 

Gostisbehere gets recall with Coburn, MacDonald out long term

When the Philadelphia Flyers host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, it will be Shayne Gostisbehere and NOT Mark Alt who will be in uniform for the first time as an NHLer.

On Friday, the major media outlets reported that Alt, 23, and a second-round pick by the club in the 2010 draft, had been recalled from Lehigh Valley of the AHL after news broke of a dire situation on the Flyers' defense. However, the Flyers themselves countered that with official word early this evening that Florida native and Union College product Gostisbehere will get the nod.

It was foreshadowed by the Allentown Morning Call's Gary Blockus, who revealed that Ghost and Brett Hextall were scratched from the Phantoms' lineup this evening.

Braydon Coburn, who has not played since Oct. 8 in Boston due to a foot injury, and was as close to playing as a day-to-day diagnosis last weekend, has been deemed out for the next four weeks.  In addition, chief shot-blocker Andrew MacDonald was revealed to have suffered an unspecified lower-body injury.

The already thin blueline corps, which has presided over each opponent except for the Bruins scoring at least three goals, will be a complicated matter at least through Thanksgiving.

Despite calls from regions that have nothing to do with the decision-making process, Flyers GM Ron Hextall publicly stated earlier in the day that he steadfastly resisted the urge to bring up Gostisbehere, saying it was "a shame" that these issues didn't crop up a month or two down the line. However, that decision was apparently either reversed or a crafty way of speaking around the issue despite reports.

Gostisbehere, 21, has two assists in three games with the Phantoms in the early going -- both of which came in last Friday's home-opening 4-3 overtime win against the Adirondack Flames.

He memorably tallied a goal, two assists and a plus-7 rating in Union's 7-4 victory over Minnesota in the Frozen Four final in Philadelphia on April 12. He immediately jumped to the AHL and made his professional debut in the final Phantoms' home game in Glens Falls, a loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Sixers finish preseason with loss at Detroit

Auburn Hills, MI -- Kyle Singler led six Pistons in double figures with 19 points as Detroit topped the Philadelphia 76ers, 109-103, in the preseason finale for both teams.

Josh Smith stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Pistons, who will be in Denver to start their regular-season slate on Oct. 29. Caron Butler added 18 points off the bench.

Henry Sims scored 17 points for Philadelphia, while Nerlens Noel tallied five blocked shots and five steals before fouling out.

The Sixers, who finished the preseason with a 2-6 record, open the regular season in Indiana on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

No Enforcers and no brawls make the Flyers...something, something...

by Rob Riches
Phanatic Hockey Contributor 

When the Flyers took the ice earlier this month for the 47th season in franchise history, they did so with something missing since the pre-Broad Street Bullies era -- the lack of a true, heavyweight enforcer on the roster.

Yes, the Flyers, of all teams, were left without an enforcer after waiving Jay Rosehill at the end of training camp. Rosehill was subsequently sent to Lehigh Valley, where he leads the Phantoms in undisciplined play and the resulting penalty minutes through three games, with 24.

The Orange and Black also gave veteran enforcer Zack Stortini a look during training camp after signing him to a one-year deal on July 2, and he recorded 48 penalty minutes through four games. Stortini was more of a long shot to make the roster, however, as he spent the last three seasons bouncing around the American League, with Milwaukee, Hamilton and Norfolk then couldn't seem to reallyu hold his own in exhibition-play bouts where he came out on the losing end.

Rosehill is in the second season of a two-year deal that pays him $675,000 this year. Stortini is also scheduled to hit the free agent market in July, after earning just over the league’s minimum salary at $575,000 this year.

The lack of an enforcer in the Flying P seems odd, especially for a team led by a former fan-favorite enforcer in Craig Berube (the franchise’s ninth-all-time leader in penalty minutes), and the NHL’s all-time leader in goaltender PIMs, Ron Hextall. But it’s part of a recent trend throughout the league, where teams are phasing out goonery and pugilism on their fourth lines in favor of speed and skill.

This season, the Flyers started with Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson on the fourth line, centered by newcomer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. With a foot injury to Vincent Lecavalier, Bellmare’s seen time on the second line, though Lecavalier’s expected to return to the lineup early next week.

Akeson’s also spent games against Dallas and Chicago in the press box, as a healthy scratch, but returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Penguins. Blair Jones has played in his place on the right wing. Jones has established himself as a gritty, two-way forward with some scoring prowess during his time in the AHL, but at the pro level with Tampa Bay and Calgary, he’s never been anything more than a bottom-six player. Jones has just three fights in his NHL career (including the notorious Vancouver/Calgary line brawl this past January), while Akeson hasn’t dropped the gloves at the professional level.

The feisty Rinaldo may be the closest to an enforcer the Flyers have, but at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he’s no heavyweight. In his first full season in 2011-12, Rinaldo accrued 232 penalty minutes, but last year, he finished with 153 -- a stark decline.

You may remember Rinaldo’s reputation when he was first pressed into NHL duty during the 2011 playoffs against Buffalo. He spent that season in Adirondack with the Phantoms, and had more suspensions (four) than goals (three) in 60 games played. Rinaldo played just two games in that playoff run –- one against the Sabres, one against the Bruins –- and finished with no points, a minus-1 rating and 12 PIM.

Aside from the stark decline in penalty minutes, Rinaldo’s looking for further ways to elevate his game. One such way is through drawing penalties. He’s drawn between 1.2 and 2.3 penalties per game in his three seasons, with his best coming in 2011-12, when he drew 2.3 per game. Additionally, he’s taken between 2.3 and 3.1 penalties per game, with his best coming, again, at 2.3 per game in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. In seven games this season, he’s taken 3.7 penalties per game while drawing just 1.2, coupled with six penalty minutes.

Aside from Rinaldo, the Flyers have the ever-capable fists of Wayne Simmonds and the Schenn brothers, if need be. Back in their first Flyers seasons in 2011-12, Rinaldo and Simmonds actually led the team in fighting majors, with 15 and 10, respectively. The Flyers also iced two other guys who could drop the gloves that season in Tom Sestito and Jody Shelley, who finished with seven and six, respectively.

This season, just two Flyers -- Luke Schenn and R.J. Umberger -- have dropped the gloves. That number will certainly change as the season goes on. Under Laviolette and Berube a season ago, they amassed a total of 45 fighting majors last season, 10 of which came from Rosehill. They may not meet that number again this season, but given the unpredictable nature of non-staged fights in hockey, anything is within the realm of possibility.

Regardless of how you feel about enforcers and fighting in today’s NHL, the phasing out of the enforcer’s role was all but inevitable. It's not a total deterrent, however. John Scott was picked up by San Jose from Buffalo, and, while the Bruins dumped Shawn Thornton, the Bruins entered the week having racked up the most penalty minutes in the league with 108.

The Orange and Black may not have a true heavyweight on their roster this year, but they have players who have proven to be more than willing to drop the gloves when the time comes. They also have players in waiting up the road in Allentown in case they’re needed. Sure, the Flyers have a storied history and tradition of pugilism – it’s essentially what the team was founded on and whose exploits become distorted with the mythos as the years go by. But in this era of the NHL, speed and skill wins.

The Flyers’ decision to forgo a true enforcer on the roster, for now, represents strides they’re taking to drag their organizational philosophy into the 21st Century.