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Black Girl Magic, LeBron James, Deaths of Sports Icons Defined 2016 Sports Year

30 Dec
simonebiles

Simon Biles won gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Last Hurrah for Ryan Howard and Bernard Hopkins, LeBron James-Male Athlete of the Year 

By Chris Murray                                                                                                                 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about 2016, it was a year where the one constant was death.

While the pop culture world got hit the hardest with the losses of such icons as Prince and David Bowie, the Sporting World got knocked around a bit as well. We lost boxing icon

ImustbetheGreatest

Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. His death in 2016 highlighted was the most visible in  year when a number icons in sports and entertainment passed away.

Muhammad Ali this year. The General of Arnie’s Army, golf legend Arnold Palmer, also left us. So did basketball coach extraordinaire Pat Summit and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Even sports media felt the sting with the losses of John Saunders, host of ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and Craig Sager, easily the most colorful man in the NBA.

Although we’re still in mourning over the loss of these shining stars, and cherishing the memories of their brilliance, the Sporting World gave us more than a few reasons to cheer in 2016. It was an up year for some and a down year for others, but one thing it wasn’t was boring.

Here’s a look at 2016 in Sports…

One Last Hurrah for the Big Piece: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard played his last season in a Phillies uniform in 2016. Photo by Webster Riddick.

This year, we said goodbye to a man who played a big part in breaking Philadelphia’s longtime championship drought, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Because 2016 marked the end of his contract, Howard will be a free agent and will most likely leave the team that he led with his bat from 2005 to 2016.

During his tenure with the Phillies, Howard’s ability to hit towering home runs and drive in runs helped lead the team to the 2008 World Series title, two National League pennants, and five consecutive National League East titles.  Howard was the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 National League Championship Series and was also winner of the National League Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP awards.

Unfortunately, a combination of age, injuries and a team in rebuilding mode mandated that Howard and the Phillies part ways. Howard will most likely play for someone else and while it’s a shame that he won’t be allowed to retire here, Phillies fans will always appreciate the Glory Days he brought to the franchise.

The Year of Black Girl Magic

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Claire Smith is the first woman to receive the Baseball Hall of Fame’s A.G. Spink Award and will be honored during in Hall of Fame weekend in July. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

In December, former Philadelphia Inquirer baseball columnist Claire Smith became the first woman to win the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award from Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. She was honored for her pioneering work, which included paving the way for women to enter MLB locker rooms to do interviews, just like their male counterparts.

That Smith received the award this year makes perfect sense because 2016 was the year that the Sporting World was hit with all kinds of Black Girl Magic.

Black female athletes from Africa and the African Diaspora (which includes the United States and the Caribbean), served notice to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with, most prominently during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

There, Black women excelled in everything. And I do mean everything.

Gymnast Simone Biles was named the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year.

If you watched one minute of her gymnastic performances during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the reason she won this award became obvious.

The diminutive Texan was the darling of the games, leading the Final Five—Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Aly Reisman, and 2012 Individual all-around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas—to a team Gold Medal and also winning three individual gold medals including the individual all-around. Biles stunning performances in the floor exercise dazzled audiences around the world and her grace and athleticism were definitely a joy to watch.

But while she responsible for a nice chunk of the Black Girl Magic on display in Rio, Biles was only the beginning. Black women also showed that they could excel in places they’re not normally associated with like the swimming pool and fencing ring.

simonemanuel

Simone Manuel became the first Black American woman to win a gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,

Stanford University’s Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win a gold medal in swimming when she tied with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak to win the 100-meter freestyle, setting Olympic and American records in the process. She also helped the 4X100 meter medley relay team take home a gold medal and won silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4X100 meter freestyle relay.

Elsewhere in the water, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman to make the U.S. Water Polo team, helped lead the team to a gold medal. In the gold medal game against Italy, Johnson, the team’s goalie, had eight saves.

Ibtihaj Muhammad made news when she competed with the U.S. Sabre Fencing team while wearing the hijab of her Muslim faith. The team took home a bronze medal and Muhammad’s performance showed that you can be an observant Muslim and an athlete simultaneously.

But while Black women in non-traditional sports took center stage, that didn’t mean that Black women didn’t continue to excel in places where they’ve traditionally ruled, such as in track and field. Led by the United States, the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica and the African continent, Black women won gold medals in all but three track and field events at the Olympics.

From Michelle Carter’s gold in the shot put to Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin and Philadelphia’s own Nia Ali sweeping the 100-meter hurdles to the exploits of the Jamaican track team, Black women showed, to paraphrase Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis, that all that’s needed for them to excel is opportunity. They made the most of it…and then some.

All Hail The King (James)

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James put his Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and helped them win three-straight elimination games to give the City of Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964.

James, the Associated Press’s Male Athlete of the Year, became the Finals Most Valuable Player by performing the historical feat of leading in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots, and assists. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that it’s something that neither Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson nor the athlete James compared to most often, Michael Jordan, was able to do.

They’re all Hall of Famers. This year, his achievements put LeBron James in the same rarefied air.

No Joy In Mudville

ben-simmons

Can Ben Simmons lead the 76ers back to glory? He was the Sixers No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

Because the Philadelphia Eagles, the Phillies, the 76ers, and the Philadelphia Flyers are all in some form of rebuilding mode, the closest that Philadelphia sports fans got to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup was the couch in front of their television sets.

While the Eagles, who will miss the NFL playoffs for the third straight year, made some noise when rookie Carson Wentz went undefeated in his first three starts, they came back to earth with a deafening thud after the bye week. Coming into the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3, 537 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The Sixers also gave their fans hope by picking LSU’s Ben Simmons with their first-round lottery pick. The good news is, Simmons can handle and pass the ball like Magic Johnson.

The bad news is, and this should be no surprise to Sixers fans, he’s injured. And as if often is in Sixers World, it’s a foot injury.

But there is some hope for optimism now that Joel Embiid has finally recovered from his foot injury and has emerged as the team’s best big man.

Villanova Wins the National Championship, Penn Wins Ivy League Crown, Penn State Temple Football Bowl Bound Again

novawinsnationaltitle

Villanova won its first national championship since 1985 with a buzzer-beater win over North Carolina.

In one of the most exciting games in the history of the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats won the men’s basketball national championship on a last-second three-point shot by Kris Jenkins.  It was probably the greatest championship game of all time and they were honored by the city with a parade down Broad Street. Although I know one Philly sports fan who thinks that parade should have gone to an actual Philly team, but the Wildcats do play some of  their games at the Wells Fargo Center and they were embraced by the entire Delaware Valley during their run to the title.

Like, for example the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Temple University Owls.

For the second straight season, the Quakers won a share of the Ivy League football title. They became league co-champs with Princeton by defeating Cornell University 42-40. Junior running back Tre Solomon gained 173 yards to lead the 7-3 (6-1 in the Ivy League) Quakers.

The Owls proved that the team’s 2015 football season was no fluke by winning the American Athletic Conference championship with a 34-10 win over Navy and notching it’s second straight 10-win season. The effort was enough to get head coach Matt Rhule noticed by the Big 12’s Baylor University, and he left to try and salvage a program that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of years. The Owls also lost the Military Bowl to Wake Forest when the comeback they were mounting fell short.

But this doesn’t take anything away from an outstanding year for the Owls. If anything, it gives new Temple head coach Geoff Collins something to shoot for.

The much-maligned James Franklin became the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year by leading the Nittany Lions of Penn State to the Big Ten Football Championship. The team scored a come from behind win against Wisconsin thanks to the performance of running back Saquon Barkley and a stout defense. While many thought that Penn State should have gotten into the College  Football Playoff thanks to its victory over Ohio State, the teams two losses mean they’ll be going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day against the University of Southern California.

Bernard Hopkins Falls to Father Time

bernard-hopkins

Bernard Hopkins looked as old as the 51-year-old man he is in his loss to Joe Smith Jr. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com

After getting literally knocked out of the ring by Joe Smith Jr. in his most recent fight, some say it should be.

From the moment he turned 40, Hopkins has waged a valiant and sometimes successful against Father Time.  But in the end, the 51-year-old Hopkins found out what every athlete eventually does: time is undefeated.

While Hopkins hasn’t said whether or not he’ll retire, the prevailing hope is that he will. To do otherwise will probably do him more harm than good long term.

Like I said, 2016 has been an up and down year. But now that it’s over, it’ll be interesting to see what 2017 will bring to the Sporting World.

No matter what it is, I’ll have it for you.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Simmonds and Mason Lead Flyers to Game 7

30 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Wayne Simmonds scored three goals to help the Flyers force Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

Wayne Simmonds scored three goals to help the Flyers force Game 7 against the New York Rangers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—On a whirlwind day in sports where the commissioner of the NBA banned the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for life for some ugly racist remarks, Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers excelled for his team in a sport in which few Black athletes play.

With his team facing elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Simmonds helped the Flyers prolong their season for at least one more game by scoring three goals in a 5-2 beat down of the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night.

“(Simmonds) was all over the puck,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who scored on an empty-net goal in the third period. “I think when Wayne wants to win the battle, he wins it and kind of gives everybody in the room the motivation to do the same.”

Simmonds became the second Black player in the history of the NHL to score a hat trick in a playoff game. Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien accomplished the feat back in a playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

More important than the social or societal significance of his accomplishment, Simmonds’ performance propelled the Flyers to a victory in an elimination game and pushed the opening round series to a seventh and deciding Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“We’re all the same color on the inside and we all have a common goal and that’s to go out there and get wins and that’s what we’re going to do,” Simmonds said. “That’s what we do every day.”

  Flyers goal tender Steve Mason saved 34 of 36 shots on goal. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Flyers goal tender Steve Mason saved 34 of 36 shots on goal. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Equally as good as Simmonds’ performance was that of goalie Steve Mason, who kept New York from scoring until the game was way out of reach. He had 34 saves against 36 shots. His tenacity along with  his teammates scoring has the Flyers one win away from advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

“Obviously, he played real well. He had a real good period in the first,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “He gave his team a chance to come out of there a goal ahead. He’s a good goal tender.”

Giroux said Mason’s good start in goal got the Flyers going and set the tone for the entire game.

“It was impressive to see Mason play the way he played tonight. He’s been doing it all year,” Giroux said. “For him to do it in Game 6, it’s great. He was our leader tonight with the way he played tonight and his attitude. It was great to watch him work hard.”

Mason, who stopped 13 shots on goal in the first period, said getting the feel for the puck coming at him early was important for his overall confidence throughout the game. He a had a couple of early  glove saves.

“It’s always important to feel the puck early I find,” Mason said. “If you’re getting some big saves early in the game, it’s something to build off of for the rest of the game. I was able to make a couple of timely saves to start off the game. … It was nice to be busy early in the game.”

The Flyers got on the board first with a power-play goal by Simmonds who got a pass from Scott Hartnell. Simmonds rebounded his own shot and put it past Rangers goalie Henrik Lindqvist to give his team a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, the Flyers took command and punched their ticket to the Big Apple by scoring three goals in the period. Simmonds second goal of the game came off teammate Brayden Schenn’s stick. He then shot the puck past Lindqvist. That score put the Flyers up 2-0.

After the Flyers penalty kill squad and a  g00d glove save by Mason stopped a Rangers power-play opportunity, Erik Gustaffsson, who committed a high-sticking penalty, jumped out of the penalty box, took a pass from Braydon Coburn and scored on wrist-shot beneath Lunqvist’s pads to give his team a 3-0 lead.

Simmonds’ third goal of the game came on a power-play when he followed in a shot by Jakub Voracek to give his team an insurmountable 4-0 stranglehold that basically punched their ticket to New York for Game 7. The game was delayed for a few minutes to clear the hats off the ice.

“Obviously, it’s do or die, we win or we go home,” Simmonds said. “I think everybody in the dressing room did a good job preparing for the game. We’re not ready to go home yet. We want to move onto the second round. I thought we played a game good, but we gotta carry it over to (Wednesday) night.”

Flyer’s head coach Craig Berube is hoping to bottle his team’s Game 6 performance for Game 7. He likes his team’s chances despite being on the Rangers home ice for Game 7.

“Going back two or three years ago, we hadn’t won there,” Berube said. “Winning that game up there (in Game 2), we know we can win up there. It’s confidence. Our guys realize we can do it.”

Mason Comes Up Huge for Flyers To Even Series

26 Apr

Flyers Goalie Comes up with 37 Saves in 2-1 win over the New York Rangers

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Steve Mason had 37 saves in win over the New York Rangers Friday night.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Steve Mason had 37 saves in win over the New York Rangers Friday night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Until further notice, a horrible game or the end of the Flyers playoff run, Steve Mason is your goalie. Period—end of discussion. There is no goalie controversy in this part of South Philly.

In a must-win situation, Mason did his part stopping 37 shots on goal and the offensive did just enough to support his outstanding effort.

Jakub Voracek’s second-period power-play goal gave the Flyers a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center to even the best-of-seven first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at two games apiece.

With the way, the Rangers were attacking the Flyers net in Friday’s Game 4, Mason simply shut New York down for most of the game.

“He’s been great for us all year long, he’s very strong mentally and he showed that tonight,” said right winger Wayne Simmonds.

The two teams will lock horns in a pivotal Game 5 matchup at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday at noon. After having ended a three-year losing streak on the Rangers home ice in Game 2, the Flyers say they are confident that they come away with a win.

“That’s huge getting that win in New York the last time we played there,” Simmonds said. “It’s not on our minds anymore and we’re going to be focused on the game and making sure we do all the right things to be prepared for the game.”

On a night when the Flyers were out-shot by the Rangers 38-25, Mason, who hadn’t played in two weeks, was simply superb, especially after he allowed the game’s first goal by Rangers center Dominic Moore four minutes into the game. That would be New York’s first and only lead of the game. Mason slammed the door on the Rangers for the rest of the night.

“(Mason) played a great game, made some big saves and got some momentum for us when we were playing on our heels a little bit,” said Matt Read, who scored the Flyers first goal in the opening period. “He played a great 60 minutes, he battles in there and he does the right thing. It’s good to see him back and healthy.”

Mason also got help from a tenacious Flyers defense which blocked 14 shots and got physical with the Rangers when they approached the Flyers net. Even when the Flyers lost Nicklas Grossman for the rest of the game with an upper-body injury in the second period, Philadelphia was relentless on defense.

“They did a great job with the blocked shots and the guys picking up the slack after we lost (Grossman),” Mason said. “It’s a big loss. The guy logs a lot of minutes and blocks a lot of shots.

The guys picked up big where he would have left off. Those are the type of efforts come playoff time that you need to be successful.”

A more physical Flyers team came up really big early in the third period when the Rangers had a four-on-three power-play opportunity, but Mason, who had a stick save in that sequence, and the defense successfully killed the penalty.

“Our defense did a good job tonight,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “I thought they broke the puck out well. They were physical down low. Most of their chances were rushed chances and that’s the just coverage and the neutral zone. Our D battled hard and did what they had to do.”

On the offensive end, the Flyers did just enough scoring to win the game. Voracek’s goal with 12:38 left in the second period turned out to be the winning score. The score happened when he guided in a shot from Braydon Schenn into the goal past Rangers net-minder Henrik Lundqvist.

“I was wide open, Schenn made a good heads up play and I tipped it,” Voracek said.

After the Rangers took a 1-0 lead, the Flyers tied on the game on a goal by Read, who rebounded a shot from Jason Akeson that hit the board behind the Rangers net. Read shot it over the left glove of Lindqvist.

 

Emery and the Flyers Come up Short in Game 3 Loss to Rangers

23 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

It was tough night for Flyer goalie Ray Emery.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

It was tough night for Flyer goalie Ray Emery. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It wasn’t a difficult decision for Flyers head coach Craig Berube to start Ray Emery in place of an injured Steve Mason.

After all, Emery had a strong effort in the Flyers Game-2 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden—the team’s first win at the world’s most famous arena since 2011.

“Ray’s played well and he’s coming off a big win,” Berube said before Tuesday’s Eastern Conference playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was too bad that Emery couldn’t stop the Rangers in Game 3 as New York dominated every phase of the game in a 4-1 win over the Flyers in front of a packed house of fans clad in orange.

New York now has a 2-1 lead in the best- of-seven NHL Eastern Conference First Round series and it also means the Flyers are in a must-win situation for Friday’s Game 4 at home.

Despite outshooting the Rangers 32-23, the Flyers couldn’t get anything past goalie Henrik Lundqvist (31 saves) except for a goal late in the first period by Mark Streit. That was also because the Rangers defense stuffed the Flyers offense for most of the game. New York blocked 28 shots and smothered them at every opportunity.

“I think you got to move the puck quicker than we are. I think it’s too predictable in what we’re doing with (Claude) Giroux and Timonen,” Berube said. “We had a lot of zone time with the puck. They did a good job with the puck, but we gotta get it to the net. If you don’t get it to the net, you’re not going to score. We gotta build deception here and there and get them through.”

Not getting enough scoring opportunities on the offensive end really manifested itself in the Flyers power play. The Flyers were 0-for-5 with the man advantage.

“We try to get the pucks through the net, especially on the power play,” said Flyers defenseman Kiimmo Timonen. “We gotta do it better. They blocked way too many shots and we gotta find away to do it better and do it quicker.”

Within the game’s first four minutes, Rangers center Derek Stepan scored the game’s first goal when he rebounded a shot by teammate Rick Nash that caromed off the left glove of Emery and into the net. About seven minutes later, Martin St. Louis put the puck past Emery to give New York a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.

Berube said Emery didn’t play a bad game and could have used more help from his defense. He also said falling into an early 2-0 hole hurt his team. Emery had 16 saves against 20 shots on goal before being pulled for Steve Mason in the third period. Berube did not say who was going to start in Game 4.

“I’m sure (Emery) wants a couple back, but he’s battled,” Berube said. “He gave us an opportunity going into the third period. … You can’t get down 2-0 in games like this. We gave ourselves an opportunity, but we need the better start.

The Flyers finally got on the board late in the opening stanza on a goal by a streaking Mark Streit, who took a pass from Jakub Voracek who was skating at the circle to the left of Lundqvist.

Despite outshooting the Rangers in the second period, the Flyers found themselves in a two-goal deficit thanks to a goal by New York defenseman Dan Girardi. The Rangers final goal of the game came on a score by former Flyers left winger Daniel Carcillo, who banged his stick on the glass near the Flyers goal and then stared at a fan.

Flyers Bounce Back From Bad Loss to Upend the Rangers

2 Mar

 

By  Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—After getting blasted by the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, the Flyers had a good start, a shaky middle, and a strong finish to upend the New York Rangers 4-2 Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

Wayne Simmonds scored a goal and assisted on another score in the Flyers 4-2 win over the New York Rangers.

Wayne Simmonds scored a goal and assisted on another score in the Flyers 4-2 win over the New York Rangers.

“I think our guys have good character,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “There’s three or four games like (the San Jose game) this year and we came back and had a real good game.  I was pretty confident that we would come out and play hard.”

Luke Schenn and Wayne Simmonds scored the game’s final two goals to break open a 2-2 tie to put the Flyers (31-24-6) to within a point of the Rangers (33-25-3) in the Metropolitan Division standings. It was Simmonds goal with 6:43 left in the second that put the Flyers on top for good. Schenn’s third-period score sealed it for the Flyers.

For the first five minutes, it looked like the Flyers were headed to a continuation of Thursday’s loss to the Sharks.  Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell committed a pair of penalties and gave a Rangers squad that knows how to score on the power-play two opportunities to put them in an early hole.

But on the both occasions, the Flyers killed the Rangers early power-play chances thanks to their defense and the goaltending of Steve Mason, who came up with some saves.

“It’s not the way you want to start a game because we’re setting ourselves back, but when you’re able to kill penalties against an extremely talented power-play in the first couple of minutes of the games, it was a good feeling moving forward,” said Mason, who finished the game with 33 saves.

Despite being outshot early in the game, the penalty kills fired up the Flyers offense midway through the opening period. First, Vincent Lecavalier scored a goal following up a shot at the point by Simmonds with 13:04 left in the period.

A little over a minute later, Sean Couturier scored the Flyers second goal on a breakaway after he took a pass from Matt Read at center ice to put his team up 2-0.  Simmonds said stopping the Rangers on the power-play got the Flyers offense going.

“We know that they have a great power-play, but our penalty kill has been great all year long,” said Simmonds, who had a goal and an assist in the game. “We take too many penalties as a team as it is and our penalty kill goes out there time after time and bails out of the situation. After that, we just want to get our legs going…we start rolling four lines and everything started clicking after that.”

In the second period, the Flyers experience a lull that enabled the Rangers to get back in the game.  The Rangers got on the board on a goal by left winger Chris Kreider. New York tied the game on a power-play goal by right winger Derick Brassard off a pass from center Brad Richards with 7:18 left in the period.

Even though the second stanza was dominated by the Rangers, the Flyers jumped back into the lead with 6: 43 left in the period on a power-play goal by Simmonds who took a pass from Brayden Schenn at left wing circle and hit a slap-shot past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist, who played the Flyers tough in recent years.

“I was looking for (Jakub Voracek) back door, but no one even came to me so I thought I was just shoot it as hard as I can and if worse comes to worse there’s a rebound off to (Voracek), but luckily it went in,” Simmonds said.

 

 

Flyer Can’t Overcome Slow Start in Loss to Carolina

23 Jan

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the first 39 ½ minutes in their game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers looked like a team that didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. The team hadn’t skated in two days thanks to Tuesday’s snowstorm. They were down 2-0 until they got a goal from Claude Giroux with 25 seconds left in the second period.

Three minutes into the third period, a goal by Scott Hartnell evened the game and it looked like the Flyers had found their energy.

Unfortunately, the Flyers once again found out that you can’t fall behind a team and expect to win.   Carolina came with a 3-2 win over the Flyers in front of a sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.

 Jiri Tlusty’s goal with 6:10 remaining in the third period was the game-winner for the Hurricanes (21-19-9).  

“We didn’t play very good and we ended up losing the game,” said Flyer head coach Craig Berube. “The whole game we weren’t very good. You’ve got to have a lot more energy than that.”

In the first period, the Flyers (25-20-6) couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end and managed to get off just three shots.

“We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot like this we need to have better starts,” Giroux said. “I think first period was the way we wanted to play. I know we didn’t skate for two days, but that’s not good enough.”

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes Alexander Semin provided the only scoring of the period when he took a pass from center Eric Staal near the right-wing circle and shot it past Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros and goalie Steve Mason for a 1-0 lead.

“It was just a heck of a shot,” Mason said. “He got a really good shot through (Meszaros) body a little bit. It was just a nice shot.”

The Hurricanes upped the margin to 2-0 on a break-away goal by center Nathan Gerbe, who  took control of the puck that went through the leg of defenseman Luke Schenn, who was standing at the top of the blue near the right wing circle.

Late in the second period, the Flyers got into the scoring column a goal by Giroux, who rebounded a shot by Jakub Voracek that bounced off the pad of goalie Anton Khudobin. Giroux, who was to the left of Khudobin, somehow got the puck behind the Carolina goalkeeper and into the net.

“When (Giroux) scored late that was a big goal for us to give us some momentum,” said Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell.

The Flyers would even things three minutes into the third period on a power-play goal by Hartnell, who shot the puck into the net on a rebound off a shot from Wayne Simmonds that was blocked by Khudobin.

After Hartnell’s goal, the Flyers simply could not sustain the momentum and they looked like a team struggling to find some energy on the offensive end. On defense, they allowed Tlusty’s goal because Voracek broke his stick and didn’t have enough time to get a new one from the bench.  

For the last two games going back to Monday’s overtime shoot-out loss to the New York Islander, the Flyers have been lulled into thinking they can just turn it and off even if they fall behind as they did in Wednesday’s game.

“We just sat back and thought that we were going to wait until overtime and maybe win it in a shootout,” Hartnell said. “That’s not the way to play. It hasn’t been our ‘MO’ when we’ve been successful, but we’ll change that.”

Third Line Leads Flyers to Win over Buffalo

22 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Matt Read scored two goals in win over Buffalo.

Matt Read scored two goals in win over Buffalo.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Flyers (9-10-2) had lost all seven games in which their opponent scored the game’s first goal.

During a lackluster first period for the home team, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, in a scrum near the Flyers net, somehow got a shot past goalie Ray Emery to give his team a 1-0 lead. A few weeks ago that goal would have been the kiss of death for a Flyers team that was struggling to score.

But the early Buffalo goal only served to wake the Flyers up as they did all the scoring the rest of the way in a 4-1 win over the Sabres in front of a sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.  The Flyers are 5-0-1 in their last six games and have outscored their opponents 22-8.

“After that (first period) we kept at it and kept it at and we finally got a couple in the second,” Emery said.

After struggling in the first period, the Flyers seized control of the game in the second period thanks to their No. 3 scoring line which consisted of right winger Matt Read, who scored the team’s first two goals, Steve Downie and center Sean Couturier, who got assists on those two scores.

“The third line played great,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “It’s nice to get balanced scoring for sure. When you can have everybody chipping in, it goes a long way.”

Read scored the Flyers first goal with 6:53 left in the second period on a pass from Downie. A little over a minute later, Couturier stole the puck from Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder and passed it to Downie who circled around the net and found Read in front of the net who shot the puck past goalie Ryan Miller.

“As a line, we played pretty good,” Couturier said. “We kept it simple, put puck deeps and won some battles. Read finished two nice plays there.”

Read said he, Downie and Couturier often meet about getting deep in the scoring zone and getting the puck to the net and they’re doing a good job of developing chemistry with each other.

“Couturier, Downie and I are having fun out there,” Read said. “We’re doing the simple things and not turning pucks over, just making things happen. The key to our line is to get pucks deep and go to work. Things just went our way tonight, but we have three or four solid lines. Any given night, any line can score. It’s fun to play when all four lines are cooking like that.”

After the second period, the Flyers kept the pressure on the Sabres in the third period. With 10:02 left in the game, Vincent LeCavalier’s goal upped the margin to 3-1. Scott Hartnell added another on an empty-netter with 11 seconds left in the game. For the game, the Flyers outshot the Sabres (5-18-1) 46 to 30.

Meanwhile, Emery had a solid night in goal for the Flyers. He had 29 saves while upping his record to 3-3 on the season. That was something that was not lost on Berube.

“Ray was solid again. He’s done a really good job. He’s a very good goalie,” Berube said. “He wins a lot of games. He goes in there and wins games. Like I say again, he was solid.”