1. Montreal isn’t going to roll over
If the Flyers want to win this series, and I fully believe they do, they need to find a way to match the compete level of the Canadiens. They didn’t do that nearly enough in either of the first two games, especially not yesterday. We knew coming into this series this was going to be their gameplan, because it’s been their gameplan all season. Grind and outwork your opponent, play fast, win puck battles, be opportunistic, etc.
Simply put, the Montreal Canadiens outworked the Flyers and that’s why they’re in this series. They’re not going to roll over and die at the first sign of trouble. The good news is that we know this Flyers team is capable of doing exactly what the Canadiens did, because they’ve done it all season. They just need to do it.
2. The Gostisbehere/Braun pairing isn’t going to cut it
One change that seemingly has to be made is splitting up the Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun pairing. It’s not getting the job done and it’s not just one of them that’s struggling. Gostisbehere struggled again failing to find the form from the final game of the round robin, and while you hope that doesn’t result in him being scratched for game three, it wouldn’t shock me.
We all know at his peak, Gostisbehere is a better option to have in the lineup than a guy like Robert Hagg, however it’s clear he still isn’t at his peak. The pairing posted Corsi-For percentages under 42 percent for the second straight game and frankly, that isn’t good enough. Not even close. But to be fair to these guys, it’s not like anyone else is really looking all that great at the moment either. Something has to — and probably will given what we’ve seen from Alain Vigneault this year — change for game three.
3. The first playoff adversity for Carter Hart
By no means is Hart to blame for any of what happened yesterday. He was left hung out to dry by his teammates and it unfortunately resulted in him getting yanked prior to the end of the second period. How he responds to this will be vital to the Flyers chances of going far, but as he and the team have done all year, they’ve bounced back after kicks to the gut like this.
4. Need more traffic in front of Price
It’s pretty obvious through just two games that Carey Price came to play this series. When Price comes to play, he’s arguably the toughest goalie to beat in the entire NHL, and if the Flyers are going to beat him, they need bodies blocking his view. This was an issue in Game 1 as well at times, but especially yesterday. Look at how they got their two goals on Wednesday night: a shot from the point that went off Jakub Voracek who was screening Price, and then a rebound goal from Joel Farabee. The theme: bodies in front of Price.
You’re not going to beat this guy with wristers from the faceoff dots; hell even the slot is probably not going to work, it’s Carey freaking Price. The Flyers have plenty of guys big enough and good enough at screening the goalie to do this, they just need to implement it.
5. Get back to what you do best
Something I’ve noticed in these first two games is for some reason the Flyers are trying more stretch passes to get out of their own zone. This is something they’ve gotten away from compared to the Hakstol Flyers, with breakouts centering around a close support system. So it’s a tad confusing why this is happening against a team like Montreal, who would be susceptible to short, quick passes on the breakout.
If the Flyers do get back to this, I think you see them dominate the game from start to finish. We saw in the third period on Wednesday, they really got back to the close support breakout method, and it was no coincidence they looked much better in the third. Montreal isn’t going to stop coming with their aggressive forecheck, so it’s time to get back to doing what this team does best on the breakout.
Jays thump Yankees – Bluebird Banter
It is so much more fun playing the Yankees in Buffalo than playing them in Yankees Stadium. I’m going to love hearing them whine about the park.
Matt Shoemaker made his first start coming back from the IL and he was very good. Just 3 innings (they were going to keep him around 60 pitches, he finished with 54), 3 hits, 2 walks, 1 earned with 1 strikeout. He seemed to be thrown out of rhythm when a foul tip went into the mask of the plate umpire and there was a long delay.
My continuing complaint is that, the umpire clearly got rocked by that pitch, the trainer comes out, and they stand and talk and joke and leave him in the game. There should be a rule that takes the umpire out of the game, at least for an inning, so he can be evaluated properly.
At the end of the inning the umpire comes out of the game and a spare umpire, who for some reason was at the game, takes over (boy was he terrible at calling balls and strikes).
Shoemaker was getting his fastball up to 95-96 and looked healthy. He’ll get another start on the weekend and, all being well, should be our third starter for the playoffs.
T.J. Zeuch came in for the fourth and threw 3 perfect innings. He gave up a walk and a double in the seventh and came out of the game at 3.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 earned, 1 walk in 3.1 innings. He looked calm and kept the Yankees hitting the ball on the ground. He gets the win.
Patrick Murphy followed up. He got us out of the seventh and pitched the 8th, giving up 2 hits with a strikeout. He’s pretty impressive with a 97 MPH fastball and a very pretty 12 to 6 curve.
Wilmer Font started the ninth and was just awful, giving up a single and 2 walks to load the bases and then a double to unload them, while getting 2 outs. Font forced Charlie to get Shun Yamaguchi into the game, to get the last out, a strikeout.
Mike Wilner mentioned that Font only hit 89-91 on the fastball, maybe something is wrong.
Lots of guys had a big night, but Kirk was the most fun to watch, going 4 for 4, with the home run, a double and a long single off the right field wall that only needed to be about 2 feet higher to be home run. Kirk scored from second on a single, which may have been the most entertaining moment of the night. Amazing that he’s in the MLB without playing above A ball.
Vladimir Guerrero was 3 for 3 with a walk. He had a “triple” that Yankees’ center fielder Aaron Hicks lost in the night sky (that we didn’t score him was a sin), a double (on pitch he really shouldn’t have swung at but he managed to pull it down the left field line) and another double that was hard hit, well earned double. let’s hope that it is the start of a hot stretch.
- Cavan Biggio had 2 walks (should have been 3, did I mention the hastily dressed plate umpire had a rough night).
- Bo Bichette was 2 for 5, with 2 RBI.
- Teoscar Hernandez was 2 for 5, 2 RBI, 3 strikeouts.
- Randal was 2 for 4, with the homer, walk and 2 RBI.
Being the Jays, we couldn’t make it through the game without an error. Biggio had an easy grounder hit to him at third but threw wide of first. Vlad got over to make the catch but couldn’t put a tag on the runner. Next batter hit another ground ball to third, this time Cavan threw a strike.
That brings our Magic Number to 3, with the Mariners still playing.
Jays of the Day: Vlad (.161 WPA), Bo (.110) and Hernandez (.102) all had the number. And, of course, I’m giving one to Kirk. And let’s give one to Zeuch for throwing the 3.1 innings, saving us from using more pitchers.
No Suckage Jays. Gurriel had the low mark at -.071. On the other hand, lets give one to Font for an awful ninth.
We had 898 comments in the GameThread. I led us to the win. I tell you, I have a beer, the team wins. I’m willing to keep it up.
Stars surrender control to Lightning in Game 2 as tug-of-war for Cup begins – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — So, how are we going to play this?
In Game 1 the Dallas Stars called the tune, winning the first 40 minutes with their heavy, win-the-net-fronts game that made the Tampa Bay Lightning look slow and pushed their skill to the outskirts of the rink.
But by taking three minor penalties in the opening period of Game 2, the Stars surrendered control, allowing a power-play exhibition to erupt — which is right up the Lightning’s alley.
What resulted was a 3-2 Tampa win, a series tied at one game apiece, and the beginning of that annual tug-of-war over which team is going to impose its style on this Stanley Cup Final.
“For sure,” agreed veteran Dallas centreman Joe Pavelski, who scored his 10th playoff goal on a dandy deflection. “There’s a couple of good teams that have somewhat of a foundation to win games, how you play. We were definitely closer to ours in Game 1, and we got away from it early in this game and it cost us. But there was no quit, and we started to find our game. It came back, and we need to stay at that level moving forward.”
From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.
And isn’t that always where the discussion goes? We start with how Tampa was able to wrest away the style of play from Dallas, and then we argue over exactly how long it lasted, until the Stars looked up at a 3-0 scoreboard in the second period and decided to make a game of it.
“It’s two very good teams battling it out. Who controls the puck the most comes back to faceoffs, and special teams were obviously the difference tonight,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness, whose team has made a habit of over-utilizing the penalty box throughout this COVID Cup. “This is going to be a tough series. They’re an elite team. They’ve been here before. We’ve got a lot of guys who have never been here before. Hopefully we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Dallas had killed of five-straight Tampa power plays in this Final and had the Bolts top producers right where they wanted ‘em: Squeezing the sticks and feeling the pressure of a Cup Final that began with the Lightning leaders firing blanks.
Then, on the first power play of the game, Nikita Kucherov was a turnover machine, handling the puck more like a ham-and-egger than the player whose Hart Trophy reign had ended just before the game, when Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl was named the 2019-20 winner.
It looked like Tampa may have been stuck in Game 1 gear. So what did the Stars do?
They took another penalty. And another.
The cardinal sin when the opponent’s skill guys are rusty is to give them power-play touches. To allow them to start to feel good with the puck on their sticks again.
“When we stay out of the box we’ve seen … we’re a good team,” Pavelski said. “When you feed their top guys that kind of confidence, they play with the puck, they get a little momentum… We can kill one, two, three [penalties] a night. We don’t need to be killing three, four a period.”
Before the first period was out, Kucherov had set up Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat for power-play snipes, and when Kevin Shattenkirk’s long-range seeing eye shot found twine the Stars were down 3-0 at the first intermission.
“That’s where we lost the game today,” said Mattias Janmark. “We don’t want to take penalties. We have taken way too many throughout the playoffs.”
But don’t just blame the Stars. This is how a skilled team like Tampa turns the game back their way: They find a way to get on the power play, then they bury you with the man advantage.
Then you get tentative about taking penalties, and the extra half-second or six inches of ice that creates is what they use to beat you on the next shift.
“It’s easy to explain,” argued Bowness. “We lost faceoffs, we were turning the puck over and we were taking penalties. It was an even game up until we started taking penalties. Their power play connected.
“Faceoffs, turnovers and penalties. Things you can’t afford to do against a team like that.”
Here we go folks.
It’s now a best-of-five, and we’re looking forward to when it becomes a best-of-three.
Because whoever seizes controls of how this Final gets played, don’t worry. The other team will steal it back.
Steelers knock out Lock, hold off Driskel, Broncos 26-21 – TSN
PITTSBURGH — A game seemingly in hand suddenly on the cusp of slipping away, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t overthink things. His team’s defence is built on one principle: attack.
Needing a stop to turn back the surprisingly resilient Denver Broncos, the Steelers dialed up one final blitz in an afternoon filled with them.
Safety Terrell Edmunds raced in unblocked to take down Denver backup quarterback Jeff Driskel on fourth-and-2 at the Pittsburgh 15 with less than two minutes to play to preserve a 26-21 victory Sunday. The sack was Pittsburgh’s seventh of the day.
“That’s just the code we live by,” Tomlin said, later adding, “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a game plan, it’s just our personality.”
A personality his team believes can carry it into January and beyond. There’s still plenty to work on; the Steelers (2-0) committed 10 penalties and turned it over twice.
So the Broncos (0-2) hung around despite losing starting quarterback Drew Lock (right shoulder) in the first quarter.
Driskel led an unlikely comeback despite taking six sacks and absorbing 17 hits. Denver trailed by 14 points at halftime and 12 in the fourth quarter — but was 15 yards away from a stunning upset before Edmunds came off the edge and sent Driskel to the turf one last time.
“I thought in lieu of all the circumstances, going against a good defence, I thought (Driskel) did an admirable job and he’ll only get better if we have to continue with him,” Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said.
Fangio might not have a choice.
Lock wore a sling over his right arm following a very strange case of deja vu. He missed three months in 2019 after injuring his right thumb while stumbling to avoid a sack.
Midway through the first quarter he was tripped up in the backfield by linebacker T.J. Watt and staggered to his right before linebacker Bud Dupree crashed on top of him, driving Lock’s throwing shoulder into the ground.
“I fell on it weird,” said Lock. “I tried to tuck it last second.”
Instead, he fumbled. The Steelers recovered and went downfield for a touchdown while Lock was in the blue medical tent getting evaluated. He attempted to throw the ball but it “felt funny.”
Driskel completed 18 of 34 for 256 yards with two touchdowns and a pick and absorbed that serious pounding. Still, he had the Broncos in position to win it until Edmunds’ No. 34 swallowed him up with the game on the line.
Tomlin will take a somewhat ugly win over the alternative.
“We understand early in the season we’re not going to be perfect (but) we were good enough to win,” Tomlin said.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 311 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his second game back from right elbow surgery. The 38 year old connected on 29 of 41 passes, including a rainbow down the left sideline to rookie Chase Claypool that turned into an 84-yard touchdown.
Still, he wasn’t exactly thrilled on a day the Steelers never trailed but struggled to put the Broncos away.
“The good news is when you play poorly and you still win the football game, that’s something to be thankful (for),” Roethlisberger said. “I just need to trust myself making the throws. The guys are in the right spot.”
The Steelers spent a portion of the week dealing with a self-inflicted public relations mess after putting the name of Antwon Rose Jr. — a Black Pittsburgh teenager shot in the back and killed by a white East Pittsburgh Police officer in 2018 — on the back of their helmets last week against the Giants. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva called an audible and put the name of fallen U.S. soldier Alwyn Cashe on the back of his helmet instead. Villanueva opted to honour Cashe again Sunday while centre Maurkice Pouncey, a longtime police advocate, used the space to pay tribute to fallen officer Eric Kelly, who was killed in the line of duty in 2009.
While all Steelers stood for the national anthem, Claypool, a Canadian, raised his right fist. He said he considers himself a “visitor” in the United States but wanted to provide some sign of unity.
Denver WR Courtland Sutton, who missed the opener against Tennessee because of a sprained shoulder, caught three passes for 66 yards before leaving in the second half with knee and leg cramps. … DE DeMarcus Walker exited in the second half with a calf injury. … DE Dre’Mont Jones left in the second half with a knee injury.
Steelers RB Conner, who left the win over the Giants with a sprained left ankle, finished with 106 yards rushing, including a 59-yard sprint after Edmunds’ sack that let Pittsburgh run out the clock.
Broncos: host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers next Sunday. Brady went 7-6 against Denver while playing for the Patriots.
Steelers: welcome the Texans next Sunday in the first-ever “Watt Bowl.” The game will feature Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt and fullback Derek Watt facing older brother J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Texans.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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