Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Biron does it again, gives Flyers 3-1 series lead

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
The Flyers decided to make it interesting in the end, blowing another 2 goal lead, but they still managed to pull out a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens to give them a 3-1 series lead. Martin Biron was once again the hero for the Flyers, making numerous brilliant saves to keep the Flyers in the game. The Flyers will continue to win in the playoffs if Biron, who finished with 36 saves, can play like this every night.

The Canadiens goaltending is a totally different story. Carey Price, the Habs goalie for every game in the playoffs so far, was benched prior to tonight's game following his awful performance in Game 4. Jaroslav Halak was called upon to make his first career playoff start for the Canadiens, and while he looked good for a long stretch in the beginning of the game, he would eventually let in two goals that he should have been able to stop. The problem the Canadiens have now is they can't go back to Price even if they wanted to because the young goaltender's confidence has to be shot after getting benched. They will be forced to go with Halak for the rest of the series regardless of how well he plays.

The first period of tonight's game was very even, with both teams looking crisp and playing with a ton of energy. Biron made a few big stops early that proved he was on point again, and Halak stopped a breakaway chance by Jeff Carter to get himself focused. The Canadiens had two powerplays in the first, but the Flyers killed them off without any trouble.

R.J. Umberger, who has been red hot in this series, scored the first goal of the game on the powerplay in the second period. Umberger flipped a shot on net that Halak should have stopped, yet it went past him to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The Flyers played great defense for the rest of the period and Biron continued to stop everything coming his way.

Scott Hartnell scored the second goal of the game for the Flyers when he tapped the puck into the back of the net after a Vaclav Prospal shot rebounded off Halak and onto his stick. The goal gave the Flyers a comfortable two goal lead, something they have had huge problems with maintaining. Several times this postseason, the Flyers have blown two goal leads and tonight was no exception. Later in the third, the Canadiens scored two goals within 37 seconds and tied the game right back up. The first goal they scored was a deflected shot that Biron had no chance on, the second was a nice goal scored by Saku Koivu.

With the game tied at 2 and under 4 minutes left to play, the Flyers got a break from the refs. The refs called an interference penalty on Steve Begin of the Canadiens that would put the Flyers on the powerplay. The play was questionable at best, and I am sure Montreal fans will say that they were screwed, but I don't have much sympathy for them considering how Game One in this series went. Danny Briere took advantage of the power play chance and scored the game winning goal. R.J. Umberger later added an empty net goal to give the Flyers the 4-2 win.

The Flyers now take a 3-1 series lead for the second time this postseason. Hopefully the Flyers have learned from their series with the Capitals that they need to put the Canadiens away now that they have the chance. The next game will be in Montreal, where the fans are crazed and the Canadiens can feed off their energy, so the Flyers will have to weather a storm at the beginning of Game Five. If Biron and the Flyers can get past the initial storm unscathed, they will be rolling to the Eastern Conference Finals to likely face the Penguins.

Let's all sit back and enjoy how far this Flyers team has come. They are the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference and they have completely dominated the best team in the East. The Flyers have looked like the better team on the ice in nearly every game and if it wasn't for some questionable calls in Game One, the series would already be over. They have the best goaltender in the playoffs right now, and they have the most complete team of anyone in hockey. Enjoy it Flyers fans, this amazing playoff ride doesn't appear to be ending any time soon.

Highlights of Martin Biron's amazing game via Comcast SportsNet:

Game 4 Flyers vs. Canadiens Live Game Blog tonight!

Check back right here tonight at 6:45 pm for the Flyers vs. Canadiens Game Four Live Blog. Discuss the game action with fellow Flyer fans as it happens. Let's see if the Flyers can protect their home ice and push the Canadiens to the brink of elimination.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Young outduels old as Phillies down Padres

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Greg Maddux, the 42 year old future Hall of Famer, was denied his 350th career victory by a pitcher who was two years old when Maddux started his major league career in 1986. Cole Hamels, now 24 years old, proved to be, at least on this night, a better pitcher than Maddux in leading the Phillies to a 7-4 win over the Padres.

Hamels went 7 1/3 innings on the night, scattering five hits, striking out six, and giving up only two runs. He coasted throughout most of the game, mixing his pitches well forcing the Padres into a number of 0-2 counts that they couldn't get themselves out of. Hamels gave up a home run, just like he always does, but he maintained his composure in a good bounce back effort after looking subpar in his last two starts.

Maddux, who has been stuck on 349 wins for three starts now, fared only slightly worse than Hamels, going 6 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 3 earned runs. His most frustrating moment on the mound occurred when he nearly slammed his glove to the ground after giving up a hit to Hamels in the 7th inning.

Offensively for the Phillies, their big inning came in the bottom of the 8th as they clung to a 3-2 lead. Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz and Greg Dobbs all drove in insurance runs to give the Phils a big 5 run cushion for the ninth inning. The Phillies needed that cushion after Ryan Madson gave up a two run home run to Scott Hairston in the ninth inning, but the Padres ultimately came up short in their comeback attempt.

The Phillies look to finish off one of their best April's in recent memory tomorrow night when they face off with the Padres again. The Phillies will definitely finish April with a record above .500 and will certainly be at or near the top of the NL East when May begins. That's the best start the Phils could have hoped for given their injury issues and a penchant for starting slow.

Highlights of Cole Hamels' great start via Comcast SportsNet:

Sixers face elimination after Pistons cruise to 3-2 series lead

The Sixers may look back to Game Four and ask what could have been. The Sixers held a 10 point halftime lead over the Pistons only to watch Detroit come back and dominate them in the second half to pull out the win. Game Five was more of the same as the Pistons controlled the play, winning 98-81, and showed why they are the championship contender and the Sixers are merely first round fodder.

The Pistons got out to a big early lead and never looked back, leading the game by double digits for most of the way. The Sixers couldn't slow down their four pronged attack of Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. Wallace, who actually looked focused on playing basketball, finished with 19 points. Prince, who continues to cause match-up problems for the Sixers, netted 17 points. Billups and Hamilton did an excellent job of limiting turnovers while creating plays for their teammates. Billups finished with 21 points and 12 assists while Hamilton notched 20 points.

The Sixers once again struggled to score against the Pistons' pressure defense. Only three players managed to score at least 10 points. On paper, Andre Iguodala played his best game of the series, shooting 8 of 13 from the field for 21 points and adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Look closer at how he played and you notice how many times he turned the ball over and how frustrated he was trying to make things happen all on his own. For the second game in a row, Andre Miller also came up small. He is the catalyst for this team and when he isn't playing at a high level, everyone struggles. If the Sixers are going to have any chance of coming back in this series, it will be on Miller to make it happen.

The series returns to Philadelphia on Thursday. The Sixers probably blew their best chance to win this series when they faded at the end of Game Four, but they are by no means done. The Pistons have them up against the ropes, but Detroit is not the kind of team who will go in for the kill. They have a tendency to lose focus and let a team hang around, so the Sixers are not finished yet. The Sixers have to find a way to steal Game Six and force the series back to Detroit for a Game Seven where anything can happen. They just have to hope that Rasheed Wallace and the rest of the group get distracted looking past the Sixers and at their second round opponent, the Orlando Magic, who finished off the Toronto Raptors last night.

No matter what happens in Game Six, the Sixers should be proud for how far them have come this season. Pushing a team like Detroit to play their best basketball in order to win is an accomplishment for this up and coming team. Let's just hope they find a way to prolong this season a little longer.

Victorino's back, Phillies claim infielder Oscar Robles

Some Phillies roster news to pass along:

*Victorino activated Shane Victorino returns to the Phillies today after spending 15 days on the disabled list. To make room, T.J. Bohn was sent back down to the minors. Considering how well Jayson Werth hit in his absence, Victorino will have to play well to earn his starting spot back. He is not in the starting line-up for tonight's game against the Padres.

*Robles added In what can only be described as a minor move, the Phillies have claimed infielder Oscar Robles off waivers from the San Diego Padres. Robles, a light hitter who spent several years playing professionally in Mexico, will play for the Phillies Triple A team in Lehigh Valley for the time being. The move was necessary considering how thin the Phils minor league system has gotten due to the recent injury to Jimmy Rollins and the subsequent call-up of Brad Harman.

Don't expect Robles to be in the majors any time soon. He was only brought in for insurance should Eric Bruntlett get hurt while Jimmy Rollins remains out. Robles can play any position in the infield, so he will be a useful player for the Iron Pigs.

Eagles Suing T.O.

The Eagles just can't seem to close the book on the headache known as Terrell Owens. They won an arbitration ruling against T.O. that forced him to re-pay bonus money he earned when playing for the Eagles back in 2004 and 2005, but T.O. has refused to pay up. The Eagles have now been forced to file suit against Owens to get him to pay the remaining money he owes, $769,117.

Owens is making 25 million from the Cowboys, so he can definitely afford to give the money back to the Eagles. Pay up, T.O.!

Knuble likely to return for Game 4, Gagne still on the horizon

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Things just keep getting better for the Flyers. Following last nights 3-2 win over the Canadiens, the Flyers also learned that one of the heroes of their first round win over the Washington Capitals is set to return. Mike Knuble, who hasn't played since Game 5 against Washington, believes he will be ready to play in Game 4 on Wednesday. Knuble, who suffered a partially torn hamstring when his skate got caught up in the ice, initially was expected to miss up to two weeks, and a return Wednesday would be slightly ahead of schedule.

Knuble would add a nice lift to a Flyers team that is gelling at just the right time. He would likely push Steve Downie out of the line-up, which is fine by me. Knuble's scoring touch and leadership will be nice to have back and Downie, while he brings plenty of energy, still has a penchant for taking too many penalties.

Knuble's return leaves just one Flyer out due to injury: Simon Gagne. Gagne said about a month ago that he could return if the Flyers make the Stanley Cup Finals. When he initially made that statement, I thought there was no way we would see him again this year, but with the way they are playing right now, the possibility is there. As much as I would cringe every time he was hit, getting a big time scorer like Gagne back would be huge. Could you imagine a top line of Gagne, Danny Briere and Vinny Prospal?

UPDATE: Knuble confirmed for Game 4.

Larry Brown coming back to coach the Bobcats

Larry Brown is back as an NBA coach. Again. According to the Associated Press, the Charlotte Bobcats, who are part-owned by longtime Larry Brown supporter and fellow former Tar Heel Michael Jordan, will hire Brown to be their next coach. Brown had been hinting for months that he wanted to return to coaching after how poorly his final stint with the New York Knicks ended. The Bobcats will be the 9th NBA team the 67 year old has coached. He replaces Sam Vincent who the Bobcats fired after a terrible season in which they won only 32 games.

Brown resigned from his position as executive vice president of the Philadelphia 76ers last week and all indications were that he was going to end up back on an NBA bench soon. I hope that this is Brown's final stop, and I hope it goes better than the train wreck that was his time with the Knicks. Brown will always hold a special place in the hearts of Sixer fans for his part in the magical run during the 2001 season.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Biron leads Flyers to 2-1 series advantage

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
It's the oldest hockey adage there is: hot goaltending wins in the playoffs. The Flyers got another amazing game from goaltender Martin Biron to help them to a 3-2 win over the Canadiens in Game 3 of their playoff series. The win gives the Flyers a 2-1 edge in the series.

Biron was on all night, and he needed to be to bail the Flyers out. The Canadiens out-shot the Flyers 34-14 which meant Biron was kept busy all night. The Flyers goalie had to make numerous saves when the defense broke down, including his best stop on a breakaway by Saku Koivu in the first period. Biron nearly pulled out a shutout but the Canadiens managed to capitalize on a long power play in the third period. Biron is the hottest of any goalie in the playoffs right now, a good sign for the Flyers as they look to continue their run.

Carey Price, the Canadiens goalie, is the worst goaltender of any team in the playoffs right now. Price let in three goals on nine shots and never looked comfortable in the crease. Any time the puck was shot at him, he seemed to misplay it and allow the Flyers second and third chances. Price was later pulled in favor of Canadiens back-up Jaroslav Halak, something that could further lower Price's confidence level. As commenter Joe said in my Game Three Live Blog, "The price is wrong, bitch!". Those of you that have seen Happy Gilmore have to appreciate that one.

The Flyers built a 3-0 lead in tonight's game thanks to goals by Scottie Upshall, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger in a second period they completely dominated. Upshall's goal was set up nicely by Joffrey Lupul, Richards' goal was shorthanded and Umberger managed to get one past Price that the goaltender should have been able to stop.

Philly looked to be on their way to an easy win when Derian Hatcher was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Francis Bouillon five minutes into the third period. The play was definitely a penalty, but the refs were a little extreme in tossing Hatcher from the game. The Canadiens scored twice on the ensuing power play and the game tightened up once again. Each team got one more power play opportunity, but the Flyers were content to sit back and let their goaltender do all the work. Thanks to Biron repeatedly making the big stops, the Flyers just managed to hold on to the win.

The Flyers take a big 2-1 series win with Game Four coming up on Wednesday in Philly. The Flyers will continue to soar if Biron can keep up his high level up play. A hot goaltender can carry a team far, and if the Flyers continue to get timely scoring and take advantage of their opponent's mistakes, there is no reason they won't be able to get past the Canadiens. It will be interesting to see how Carey Price handles himself in the next game. He could come back full of confidence or he could continue to play like the inexperienced 20 year old he is. With the way Biron is playing, if Price can't step his game up, this series is as good as over.

Highlights of Martin Biron's stellar game via Comcast SportsNet:

Game 3 Flyers vs. Canadiens Live Game Blog tonight!

Check back right here tonight at 6:45 pm for the Flyers vs. Canadiens Game Three Live Blog. Discuss the game action with fellow Flyer fans as it happens. Let's see if the Flyers can protect their home ice and take a lead in this series.

Eagles sign 7 Rookie Free Agents

The draft might be over, but the Eagles are continuing to add rookies to their roster through free agency. These are players that went undrafted that the Eagles are inviting to training camp, few of them have much of a chance of making the team, some will end up on the practice squad:

Kyle Arrington, CB, Hofstra
--Smallish corner, 2 interceptions in college career.

Jed Collins, FB, Washington State
--Good hands out of the backfield (80 catches in college), could be competition for Jason David and Dan Klecko for the starting fullback spot.

Franklin Dunbar, OT, Middle Tennessee State
--6 foot 4, 327 pounds, was a three-year starter.

Terrell Golden, WR, Penn State
--Fast receiver with decent hands, put up mediocre numbers at PSU.

Frantz Hardy, WR, Nebraska
--Had a few big games in college, but failed to produce consistently

Shaheer McBride, WR, Delaware State
--Four year starter at small school holds Delaware State records for receptions and yards.

Justin Roland, LB, Kansas State
--Decently sized LB recorded 70 tackles last year.

None of those names are instantly recognizable nor are they college stars but it looks like the Eagles are looking to possibly add some depth to their receiving corps with these signings. Of course, many of them will be amongst the first cuts at training camp this summer.

Experts weigh in on the Eagles Draft

Grading a draft the day after it happens is always a silly exercise. You never know what "sure thing" will turn into a bust, or what late round selection turns into the next Tom Brady. Usually you need to wait at least three years to really get a good gauge of how a team did. Regardless, here are a smattering of experts and their thoughts on the Eagles draft:

Mel Kiper, ESPN:
C+
Trevor Laws had a very good 2007, and was arguably Notre Dame's best player. I like where the Eagles got DeSean Jackson because he's an exciting player (when healthy) who will help out in the return game. Bryan Smith is a combination DE/OLB, and Michael McGlynn had a nice season at right tackle opposite Jeff Otah. Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu is a pick for the future; after declaring for the draft, he suffered a knee injury in January and isn't expected to play in 2008. Andrew Studebaker out of Wheaton has the potential to be a situational pass-rusher.

John Czarnecki, Fox Sports:
C-
For the second straight year, the Eagles traded out of the first round. This time they picked up Carolina's first-round pick in 2009, one that the Panthers used on Pitt OT Jeff Otah. Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws is strong inside, but he can be blocked when he doesn't stay low. Coach Andy Reid went for Cal playmaker DeSean Jackson with his second pick, and he should be an excellent punt returner. Jackson has game-breaking speed, but will have trouble getting off the line against NFL cornerbacks. Pitt guard Mike McGlynn brings a roughhouse attitude, while Wisconsin CB Jack Ikegwuonu tore his ACL in January and may not be ready for training camp.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports:
B
Best pick: Second-round pick DeSean Jackson will become a big-play return man immediately. He could also be a factor in the passing game as a rookie.

Questionable move: Trading out of the first round and not picking until No. 47 in the second round. But they did add Carolina's first-round pick in the 2009 draft to do so.

Second-day gem: Safety Quintin Demps has great speed and coverage skills. Some teams had him ranked third at the safety spot, so he's a bargain in the fourth round.

Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports: C+
The 10 picks touched on all the major needs, but the class doesn’t have the “wow” factor. It’s a little reminiscent of the 2004 draft that went 10 deep but didn’t produce much. However, Philadelph
ia’s fleecing of Carolina for the 19th pick will produce future dividends. Jackson is explosive and a potential steal in the second round. Ikegwuonu has a lot of talent and could move over to safety when he recovers from his knee injury. McGlynn could move to tackle and Dunlap could make the team because of his size.

Larry Weisman, USA Today
:
C+
Bailed out of first round rather than take a WR too high and then got the guy they liked, DeSean Jackson, in the second. Need that sort of playmaker. Picked up Carolina's No. 1 next year. Got o-line help in Mike McGlynn but reached a bit for him, added secondary help later and those were at least slight reaches too — though FS Quintin Demps shows some real ability. CB Jack Ikegwuono has knee problems and may be facing burglary charges.

Clifton Brown, Sporting News:
C+
It paid off to trade down. DeSean Jackson gives them a much-needed deep target for Donovan McNabb, and a draft-day deal gives them the Panthers' first-rounder in '09.

And finally something positive:
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No grade, but he includes the Eagles in "
The five teams I like" section of his draft column.
The Eagles always ask for too much in trade. Always. They couldn't get rid of Lito Sheppard last weekend, but that was primarily because Sheppard, who gets hurt too much, wants a new contract even though he has four years left on his current one. But the Eagles were able to auction off the 19th pick in the draft for a mind-boggling sum, which they got from Carolina -- second- and fourth-round picks this year and the Panthers' first-round pick next year.

On the draft-trade chart, the 19th-overall pick is worth 875 points. If you assign Carolina an average 2008 season and give them the 16th pick in the first round next year, this trade will be worth 1,546 points on the trade chart -- almost double what the 19th pick is worth. In terms of real additions this year, DeSean Jackson as a receiver/returner with the 49th pick is excellent value.

My thoughts: Overall, the experts seem to feel that the Eagles draft is pretty average. In order to fully assess this year's draft, we are going to have to wait and see what the Eagles do with the first round pick they got from the Panthers for the 2009 draft. If that pick turns out to be in the top ten, then the Eagle draft grade should go way up. None of the players they drafted this year will have a huge impact in 2008, but the Eagles didn't have very many holes anyway. With two first rounders in next years draft, they have positioned themselves nicely for the future while sacrificing some talent for this year.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sixers blow chance to take over series

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the run and gun Sixers forced numerous Detroit turnovers en route to taking a ten point lead at halftime. In the second half, the Pistons defense took over and forced Philadelphia to take bad shots and dominated the Sixers to win the game 93-84 and tie the series at 2 games apiece.

The first half of the game looked just like the Sixers' Game Three blowout as Philly built a 14 point lead with a number of steals and fast break dunks. The Pistons looked lethargic on offense and didn't seem at all interested in playing defense. They flipped the switch at halftime and clamped down on defense, only allowing the Sixers to score 16 3rd quarter points. The Pistons beat the Sixers at their own game, forcing turnovers and finishing easy transition baskets at the other end.

The Sixers featured a balanced scoring attack with 6 players finishing in double figures. Thaddeus Young led the way with 15 points and Samuel Dalembert added 12 rebounds to go with his 12 points. Andre Iguodala played well in the first half but struggled down the stretch, finishing with 12 points on a 4 of 16 shooting night.

Philly had no answer for Tayshaun Prince, who shot 11 of 12 from the field to give him 23 points on the night. Prince couldn't be slowed down no matter who guarded him. Rasheed Wallace also played his best game of the series and finished with 20 points and 10 boards.

The Sixers missed a golden opportunity to take control of this series. They dominated in the first half and looked like they would easily build a 3-1 series lead but the Pistons had other ideas and completely shut them down when it mattered. Andre Iguodala, except for a massive dunk early in the first quarter of today's game, has looked completely flustered on the offensive end. He repeatedly settles for turnaround jumpers instead of trying to slash into the lane. He is the Sixers top scoring threat, so he feels the need to force things that just aren't there. It really highlights the Sixers need for another complementary scorer.

Game Five is back in Detroit. The Sixers will need to play the way they did in the first half of tonight's game if they want to stay in this series.

The big highlight of the night for the Sixers, Andre Iguodala's huge dunk over Rasheed Wallace. Notice Jimmy Rollins' reaction in the clip:

Philadelphia Eagles 2008 Draft Round-up

The 2008 NFL Draft is over and the Philadelphia Eagles have made a total of 10 selections. They went into the draft knowing they didn't have any glaring weaknesses on the team that needed to addressed in the draft, so they mostly took players that would help them down the road rather than guys that can step in right away. Many of the players selected are coming off injuries or they are still injured, so they aren't expected to contribute in 2008 at all. Overall I would say this was an average draft. The Eagles appeared to give their return game a boost by selecting DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps looks like he could develop into Brian Dawkins' eventual replacement, but it's hard to see what roles the rest of these guys will play. Here is a complete rundown of each player selected by the Eagles:

Round 2, Pick 16(47): Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame
--The Eagles took Laws after trading out of the first round with the Carolina Panthers. They will get the Panthers 1st round selection in next years draft, a pick that could end up being pretty high considering the Panthers aren't that good. Laws is a bit of a reach as a second rounder, but he is a good fit for the 4-3 scheme and should find playing time in the Eagle defensive line rotation sometime down the road. Laws is good against the run and also did well on special teams, blocking 6 kicks in his college career.


Round 2, Pick 18(49): DeSean Jackson, WR, California
--Jackson is a small receiver with tremendous quickness who figures to help out the Eagles return team right away. He is generously listed as 6 feet tall and will be a home run threat when he lines up at wideout. Jackson has been working with Jerry Rice on what adjustments he needs to make in order to be an NFL wide receiver. He won't make the tough catches across the middle, but his speed should allow him to get plenty of separation on the outside. Donovan McNabb may have another offensive playmaker now.


Round 3, Pick 17 (80): Bryan Smith, DE, McNeese State
--An Andy Reid special: a small player from a small school. Smith was a defensive end in college, but he will likely have to make the transition to linebacker in the NFL. Smith is a great pass-rusher who dominated playing against weak competition. He was a two-time Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year.


Round 4, Pick 10 (109): Mike McGlynn, OT, Pittsburgh
--McGlynn, a teammate of first round pick Jeff Otah, is nimble, strong and versatile. He was a tackle in college but could play guard or center in the NFL. McGlynn is a physical player that NFL.com says got into altercations nearly every day in practice. He won't play in 2008 baring an injury, but he could be useful in any number of roles down the road.


Round 4, Pick 18 (117): Quintin Demps, S, UTEP
--Demps is a defensive playmaker who picked off 17 passes in his college career. He lacks hitting ability, so he isn't a complete safety, but the Eagles will likely try to groom him to be Brian Dawkins' replacement down the road. He has tremendous speed, but will need to adjust his game to fit into the Eagles' system.


Round 4, Pick 32 (131): Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin
--The first player taken with serious injury issues, Ikewuonu tore his ACL in January and won't play in 2008. He is described as having 1st round talent, but the injury and some off-field troubles with the law forced his draft status to fall. Down the road he could be a good #3 corner for the Eagles.

Round 6, Pick 18 (184): Mike Gibson, OT, California
--Gibson, a teammate of DeSean Jackson at Cal, was a tackle in college but will play guard in the NFL. He finished his college career with concussions that forced him to miss Cal's final game. He is very strong and agile.

Round 6, Pick 34 (200): Joe Mays, ILB, North Dakota State
--Mays comes from a small school and is small in stature. He dominated at North Dakota State and was named the Great West Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He was known for making big hits and flying all over the field. His role in the NFL will likely be as a special teams player where he can get out into the open field to make explosive hits.


Round 6, Pick 37 (203): Andy Studebaker, OLB, Wheaton
--Another linebacker selected in the 6th round from another small school, Studebaker is fast and also strong. He played defensive end in college but will move to linebacker in the NFL. He was an elite pass rusher in his junior year, notching 17.5 sacks. He was injured for most of his senior year with a sprained right foot.


Round 7, Pick 23 (230): King Dunlap, OT, Auburn
--Dunlap is massive at 6 foot 9 and 310 pounds, but he is coming off injuries and off-field issues that dropped his draft status immensely. Dunlap had a great junior year and was thought of to have first day talent, but he was arrested for failing to pay a speeding ticket and injured his left elbow in his senior year. The chances are slim that Dunlap will make the team.

So those are the Eagles selections for the 2008 Draft. Experts will not call this a good draft, but the Eagles do have some intriguing prospects that could develop down the road. They took a lot of gambles on injured players that have the talent to be solid contributors in the NFL.

Add your comments on the Eagles draft below, and be sure to grade their draft in the poll to the right!

The Eagles have plenty of work left to do on second day of NFL Draft

The Eagles still have a lot of work to do. After trading down twice and selecting a defensive tackle who may have been a reach and a speedy but tiny wideout, the Eagles have nine more selections to make on the second day of the NFL Draft. Chances are, several of them will get traded, but expect the Birds to address needs at safety and offensive line at some point.

Here are their remaining picks updated as the day goes on:
Round 3, Pick 17 (80): Bryan Smith, DE, McNeese State
Round 4, Pick 10 (109): Mike McGlynn, OT, Pittsburgh
Round 4, Pick 18 (117): Quintin Demps, S, UTEP
Round 4, Pick 32 (131): Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin
Round 6, Pick 18 (184): Mike Gibson, OT, California
Round 6, Pick 25 (191): Traded to Cleveland
Round 6, Pick 34 (200): Joe Mays, ILB, North Dakota State
Round 6, Pick 37 (203): Andy Studebaker, OLB, Wheaton
Round 7, Pick 23 (230): King Dunlap, OT, Auburn

Check back later for a complete draft round-up!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thanks to Martin Biron, Flyers even up series

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Paul Chiasson)
This time the Flyers made sure the referees couldn't affect the outcome of the game. The Flyers once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but this time they never let the Canadiens come back, winning the game by a score of 4-2.

Martin Biron was the story of this game, playing his best game of the playoffs. He made a number of spectacular saves that left the Canadiens forwards frustrated. Biron made 34 saves in all, none more exciting than the Tomas Plekanec breakaway chance that he snuffed out in the second period. Plekanec skated in all alone after a bad turnover by the Flyers, but Biron snatched his shot attempt right out of the air. Without Biron playing his best game, the Flyers could have easily blown another 2 goal lead.

The Flyers got a pair of goals by R.J. Umberger, including one in the final minutes of play that sealed the victory. Jeff Carter and Danny Briere also scored for the Flyers, with Carter's goal coming on the power play. The Canadiens got a powerplay goal from Saku Koivu in the first period and Andrei Markov later added a goal in the third period. They would have scored several more, especially on their potent power play, if Biron hadn't been so on his game.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price, a 20 year old rookie, failed to raise his level of play to match Martin Biron. He looked shaky in net all night, making several strange plays and showing a total lack of effort on the last goal of the game by Umberger. The Flyers clearly know how to get pucks past Price despite getting limited opportunities, scoring on 4 of their 23 shots.

The series now turns to Philadelphia all tied up at one win apiece. Regardless of what happened in Game One, the Flyers should feel good about splitting the games in Montreal, they have effectively taken away the home ice advantage. The Flyers have been the better team in this series, taking the best offensive punch the Canadiens have and repeatedly turning it aside. The number of shots they are giving up is somewhat alarming, but if you have followed the Flyers at all this season you know that they have a tendency to allow the other team to pepper shots on goal. Many of the shots are easy saves for Biron, but they still need to find a way to limit the Canadiens' chances if they hope to move on to the next round.

Highlights of Martin Biron's stellar game via Comcast SportsNet:

Howard awakens, helps Phillies to 3rd straight win

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Between the NFL Draft and the Flyers game, I'll admit that I didn't plan on spending much time watching the Phillies game today. Luckily, thanks to Ryan Howard finally waking up from his slumber, the Phillies offense put the game away early, scoring 5 runs in the first inning to lead the Phillies to an 8-4 victory over the Pirates.

Howard had been mired in a deep funk, striking out numerous times and looking lost at the plate recently, but he bounced back today with a towering 2-run home run in the first inning. Of course, Howard also struck out 2 times later in the game, but we can all learn to live with the strikeouts if he keeps hitting bombs. Chase Utley continued his hot hitting, getting a pair of hits and scoring two runs.

Kyle Kendrick also put together a solid pitching performance tonight against a weak hitting Pirates team. Kendrick pitched 7 innings and gave up 4 runs, 3 of them earned. Ryan Madsen and Rudy Seanez threw two shutout innings to continue the bullpen's current hot streak.

The win was the Phillies 3rd in a row and the 6th in their last 7 games. They go for the sweep over the Pirates tomorrow afternoon with Brett Myers taking the mound.

Highlights of the game courtesy of Comcast SportsNet:

Eagles finally draft two in the Second Round

After sliding backwards out of the first round and then again moving back in the second, the Eagles finally selected two players in the second round with picks 47 and 49. The Eagles first drafted Trevor Laws, a DT from Notre Dame who figures be another player they can eventually slot into their defensive line rotation. Laws appeared to be a bit of a reach at this point in the draft, so the Eagles must see something in him that will fit perfectly into their system.

With the second pick, the Eagles took DeSean Jackson, pictured above, an electric wide receiver from Cal. Jackson is small but incredibly fast, so expect him to be a return specialist as well as an option for Donovan McNabb. If he makes the return game an actual threat, this pick could turn out to be a steal.

Here is some more info on these two picks:
Trevor Laws
DeSean Jackson

Eagles acquire RB Lorenzo Booker

The Eagles have acquired running back Lorenzo Booker from the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins will get the Eagles fourth round draft pick for the veteran running back. Booker was a third round pick by the Dolphins last year, and he rushed for 125 yards on 28 carries in 2007. He was mostly a third down back last season for Miami, catching 28 passes for 237 yards.

I have no idea how the Eagles plan on using Booker. They don't really need a running back with pass-catching ability, they already have the best in the business at that. He will likely be some help on special teams, and perhaps he could learn to return kicks or punts. For the price they paid the Eagles obviously feel that Booker has some real value. A fourth round pick is a pretty hefty price to pay for a guy that isn't at least a second string running back.

Eagles trade out of first round

Apparently Andy Reid didn't like anything that was available. The Eagles traded out of the 19th pick in the first round, giving it to the Carolina Panthers who used it to select offensive tackle Jeff Otah, a player that was rumored to be on the Eagles wish list. Here is the complete breakdown of the trade:

Eagles get:
Panthers 2nd round pick
Panthers 4th round pick
Panthers 2009 1st round pick

Panthers get:
Eagles 1st round pick (Jeff Otah)

This is a great deal, getting another first round pick for next years draft. The Panthers don't figure to be a great team this year, so it could be a top ten pick. The Eagles also have further loaded up with picks in this years draft (they have 12 total picks) which gives them plenty of room to maneuver should they choose to do so later.

Philadelphia Eagles Draft Day Coverage

The wait is finally over. All the speculation of what the Eagles are going to do on Draft Day can go out the window along with all the mock drafts. Hit refresh for the latest updates.

8:58 pm
*The Giants make the last pick of the second round, Terrell Thomas from USC. Day One is over, definitely shorter than in previous years, but still too long. Check back later tonight for more analysis of the Eagles picks!

8:31 pm
*Packers take Brian Brohm, they're QB of the future. Wait, I thought that was supposed to be Aaron Rodgers?

8:22 pm
*DeSean Jackson has been working with Jerry Rice on getting ready for the pro game. Sounds good to me!

8:18 pm
*Okay so that wasn't much of a break. The Redskins pick Malcolm Kelly, who they will now pair up with Devin Thomas in their passing game. Curious that they took two WR's already. Limas Sweed was also taken by Pittsburgh, he is a great value at this point in the draft. I wouldn't have minded Sweed going to the Eagles with their last pick.

8:10 pm
*I'll be taking a break for awhile, watching the Flyers!

8:09 pm
*For more on the Eagles picks, click here.

7:54 pm
*Eagles make their next selection! They finally get their receiver, DeSean Jackson from Cal. That's a great pick there. He will be a great punt/kick returner.

7:46 pm
*Eagles FINALLY make a pick! Trevor Laws, DT Notre Dame.

7:41 pm
*Bengals pick Jerome Simpson, WR. EAGLES ARE ON THE CLOCK (again). Let's see what they trade for now!

7:37 pm
*Apparently the Eagles got another 4th rounder from the Vikings. I guess that makes up for the one they gave up in the trade for Lorenzo Booker.

7:32 pm
*It looks like they moved down a few spots and they have the 47th and 49th picks coming up. They had to have gotten something else, too.

7:31 pm
*Still waiting for word on what the Eagles got from the Vikings

7:25 pm
*Seriously? The Eagles trade down again? Do they even want to draft this year?

7:22 pm
*I have no idea what the Eagles will do with this pick. If I had to guess, I would say they take one of the best available receivers, DeSean Jackson or Malcolm Kelly perhaps.

7:21 pm
*The Broncos pick WR Eddie Royal. THE EAGLES ARE ON THE CLOCK. Let's hope they actually use their pick this time!

6:56 pm
*Now we have a run on receivers. Jordy Nelson of Kansas State is the next to go. The Eagles may need to move up if they want to take one.

6:48 pm
*Redskins take Devin Thomas, the second receiver off the board. Thomas is going to be a good player, it would have been nice if he fell to the Eagles.

6:01 pm
*Can anyone follow all these trades? This has to be some kind of record. The Cowboys trade for another first round pick and get Mike Jenkins, someone many thought would be the first cornerback taken. Great value there, I hate the Cowboys.

5:53 pm
*Another running back off the board! Chris Johnnson from East Carolina goes to the Titans with the 24th pick. That's five running backs taken and ZERO wide receivers so far.

5:45 pm
*Running back run! Dallas takes Felix Jones and Rashard Mendenhall goes to the Steelers. Neither team really needs a running back, but they are both good value at this point.

5:33 pm
*Cowboys on the clock. BOOOOO!!! Love the boos coming from the crowd in New York. The Cowboys should take some secondary help because they can't count on Pacman.

5:22 pm
*The Bucs take Aqib Talib, someone else who the Eagles may have been interested in. Talib has some serious off-field issues, so I don't mind them passing on him.

5:21 pm
*Details of the Eagles trade just came through. The Eagles get the Panthers first round pick next year, which could be a high pick since Carolina doesn't figure to be that good.

5:11 pm
*The Panthers take Jeff Otah. Guess the Eagles didn't hold him in as high regard.

5:10 pm
*Eagles trade out of the first round with the Carolina Panthers. That would have been my next guess, if the Eagles didn't see anything they really liked, they would move down and grab someone later.

5:04 pm
*My prediction is that the Eagles take Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah. Even though none have been taken, it's still too early to take a wide receiver, they can take one in the second round. The receiver group is so deep that there won't be much of a drop-off.

5:03 pm
*Baltimore moves up to take Delaware's Joe Flacco, a QB. THE EAGLES ARE ON THE CLOCK!

4:53 pm
*Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie taken by the Cardinals. Another player many mock draft had the Eagles taking. Rodgers-Cromartie would have been a solid addition for the Eagles, but I think the Birds have bigger needs than cornerback, especially with no word yet on a Lito Sheppard trade.

4:44 pm
*Instead of the Eagles, the Chiefs trade with the Lions for the 15th pick. They select Brandon Albert. Great value with the 15th pick. You can bet Andy Reid is pissed!

4:40 pm
*ESPN is speculating that the Eagles might try to trade up here with the Lions for the 15th pick. The thought would be that the Eagles take Brandon Albert and keep him away from the Cheifs who could take him with the 17th pick. Sounds good to me!

4:37 pm
*The Bears take offensive lineman Chris Williams. The Eagles have to feel pretty good knowing linemen Brandon Albert and Jeff Otah are both still on the board. Knowing the Eagles penchant for taking lineman in the first round, expect one of the two to be the pick if they are still there at 19.

4:28 pm
*Second running back taken, Jonathan Stewart from Oregon. He's a bit of a stretch here, I thought Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois was going to be the second back taken.

4:24 pm
*Broncos take Ryan Clady, a lineman who I had seen go to the Eagles in some mock drafts. He's the first offensive player taken in 7 picks. This is not a big year for skill position players.

4:19 pm
*The first defensive back is off the board. Leodis McKelvin is taken by the Bills to help them actually try to cover the Patriots receivers.

4:13 pm
*The Patriots throw a bit of a curveball. Linebacker Jerod Mayo was considered a bit of a late first round pick. Of course, linebacker is a big need for the Pats, so the pick makes sense.

4:09 pm
*Patriots on the clock again. I could see them moving down again. Maybe the Eagles could swing a deal to move up here?

4:04 pm
*First two trades of the day. The Patriots trade down, as expected, and the Saints move up and take DT Sedrick Ellis. The Ravens, knowing that they can't take a QB now, also trade down and the Jaguars make the first reach of the day: Derrick Harvey, a DE from Florida. He was considered a late first rounder at best. The Jags gave up a TON to move up. They gave up their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th to move up. Bad Deal.

3:43 pm
*Chiefs do the right thing and take Dorsey, the Jets take defensive end Vernon Gholston. Makes sense for both of them.

3:30 pm
*The draft should get interesting now. The Chiefs could take Glenn Dorsey, or they could trade down. The Chiefs are a terrible franchise, so expect them to do something head-scratching.

3:27 pm
*Raiders take McFadden. Knowing who the top four picks were going to be ahead of time has made this pretty boring. That being said, the Raiders did good to take the best player in the draft at the number 4 pick.

3:17 pm
*Falcons are taking Matt Ryan. No pressure, Matt, you are expected to resurrect an entire franchise and make everyone forget about Mike Vick. Good luck with that.

3:11 pm
*Rams pick Chris Long as expected. Have there ever been a more boring top two picks? I know these guys are going to be good, but they are both safe, vanilla picks.

3:03 pm
*Miami makes it official: Jake Long with the first pick. Good selection, he's the safest pick out of any of the top guys. What will the Rams do at number 2?

2:46 pm
*ProFootballtalk.com appears to have crashed. Not a good time for that to happen!

2:27 pm:
*Some interesting things happening 30 minutes before the draft even starts, according to Jay Glazer. The Ravens may be trying to move up to the number 2 spot to take Matt Ryan now that the Falcons made it apparent they will take him. The Chiefs also want to move down now that their top choices have been taken off the board. Do the Chiefs need secondary help? Lito + the number 19 pick for the number 5 pick?

1:45 pm:
*We apparently already know the first four picks in the draft according to ProFootballtalk.com:

Dolphins: Jake Long
Rams: Chris Long
Falcons: Matt Ryan
Raiders: Darren McFadden

Kinda takes a lot of the fun out of the draft when teams announce their intentions ahead of time. Of course, there could be a lot of teams trying to send out smokescreens and they'll go another direction completely.

Hit refresh for the latest updates!

Game 2 Flyers vs. Canadiens Live Game Blog tonight!

Check back right here tonight at 6:45 pm for the Flyers vs. Canadiens Game Two Live Blog. Discuss the game action with fellow Flyer fans as it happens. Let's see if the Flyers can bounce back and even this series up.

Friday, April 25, 2008

That's more like it: Sixers dominate Pistons to take series lead

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Detroit Pistons are an elite team that won 59 games in the regular season and many experts considered them a strong candidate to make the NBA Finals. The Sixers finished the season below .500 and were considered lucky to even be participating in postseason play.

None of those things mattered tonight, as the two teams seemed to switch roles: the Sixers completely dominated the Pistons, who looked listless and lifeless as they struggled to keep up. The Pistons have an incredible amount of playoff experience, and the young Sixers are just getting their feet wet, yet it was the Sixers who showed playoff moxie and the ability to play sound defense and hit clutch shots in their 95-75 beatdown of the Pistons. The win gives the Sixers a surprising 2-1 series lead.

The Pistons seemed to have a good dame plan: shut down Andre Iguodala and make the Sixer supporting cast beat them. Perhaps they underestimated just how good the supporting cast is. While Iguodala was hounded all night and managed just 10 points on 2 of 9 shooting, six other Sixers managed to score at least 8 points, including Samuel Dalembert's team high 22. The Sixers put forth a total team effort: Andre Miller had 21 points and 6 assists, Thaddeus Young notched 10 points and energy-man Reggie Evans had 9 points and 5 rebounds. Dalembert also added 16 rebounds and 2 blocks on the night.

Detroit never really got going and only had three players finish in double figures. Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, who finished with 23 and 18 points respectively, were the only two players who seemed to be focused on the game. Rasheed Wallace was once again more interested in arguing with the refs and mixing it up with Reggie Evans and he finished with a pitiful 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting.

There will probably be some argument as to whether the Sixers won this game by playing tenacious defense and out-hustling the Pistons or whether the Pistons simply didn't feel like playing. Detroit, known for their mental lapses, basically took the night off. They focused a lot of their energy on shadowing and frustrating Andre Iguodala but they neglected to actually play defense on anybody else. On the other end, the Sixers defense definitely played a part in keeping the Pistons under 80 points, but there was definitely a lack of effort on Detroit's part.

Even the most jaded Sixer fan has to believe now. The Sixers proved that game one was no fluke as they played their best game of the series tonight. They came right out of the gate with lots of energy, feeding off the home crowd and hustling for every loose ball and grabbing every rebound. They fastbreaked the Pistons into oblivion, scoring 29 fast break points created from forcing the Pistons into 23 turnovers, Detroit's season high. If the Sixers come out with the same intensity next game, regardless of whether the Pistons decide to show up, we could be looking at one of the biggest playoff upsets ever.

This scrappy Sixers team has quickly found a place in the Philadelphia sports fan's heart. They are the ultimate underdog that is taking it to the mighty behemoth. They are making basketball fun again in Philly, something that it hasn't been for several years. Let's see if the thrill ride continues Sunday in Game Four.

Video highlights courtesy of Comcast SportsNet:

Phillies B-Squad beats Pirates

You know the Pirates aren't very good when the Phillies are missing Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino due to injuries, bench Ryan Howard, start nobodies Brad Harman and Eric Bruntlett, and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell combine for one hit and they still lose to the Phillies 6-5.

The secondary players got it done for the Phillies in the early innings, as Chris Coste picked up three RBI's and Jayson Werth hit a home run to give the Phils an early 6-0 advantage. Then, despite Adam Eaton's best efforts to give away the game, the bullpen came in and held it down just like it has all season long. Chad Durbin had a bit of a rough outing giving up two runs, but Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge combined for three shutout innings, combining to give up only one hit. Lidge, who has been everything the Phillies hoped he would be when they traded for him in the offseason, picked up his sixth save, and continues to have an ERA of triple-zeros. The win was the Phillies 5th in their last 6 games.

The Phillies are starting to starting to do the things that legitimate contenders do. They are winning games when their starting pitcher has an off-night and when some of their best hitters are in slumps or are nursing injuries. They are finding ways to win ball games, something the good teams always do.

Even though this win was only against the Pirates, the Phillies should be content with knowing their best players can have an off night and they still have enough weapons to compete.

Highlights of the game via Comcast SportsNet:

With the 19th pick in the first round, the Philadelphia Eagles select.....

So who's it going to be? With the NFL Draft just a day away, we will soon know exactly what the Eagles plan to do with their first round selection. Will they take our advice (check the poll on the right) and take a wide receiver, or will they take an offensive lineman like they always do? Will they trade up using their glut of later picks, or will they trade down to further stockpile choices? Will they finally trade Lito Sheppard, possibly to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a second round pick?

Judging from the various mock drafts out there, even the experts don't really know what the Birds are going to do. I've seen the Eagles projected to take everyone from cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to lineman Jeff Otah to receiver Limas Sweed. So what do I think they will do? I have a feeling that Andy Reid wants an offensive lineman (big surprise) and he will do what it takes to get Brandon Albert of Virginia. If that means they have to package some of their later picks to move up to get him, I think they will. Albert is big and fast and would be perfect in the Eagles running game with the way they like to run the ball to the outside. He is just a perfect fit for the system, and Andy Reid will do everything to get his guy. I think they'll pass on taking a receiver in the first round and instead take the best available one in the second. This draft isn't top heavy with receivers, but it is plenty deep, so the Eagles could snag a James Hardy or Malcolm Kelly in the second round.

What do you think the Eagles will do? Weigh in with your opinions in the comments section! Check back in tomorrow for complete draft day coverage.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sound Familiar? Flyers blow 2 goal lead

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
The Flyers just can't seem to hold on to 2 goal leads. For what only seems like the 8th time in the playoffs, the Flyers jumped out to a 2 goal lead in tonights opening game of the second round, only to see the Canadiens battle back, force overtime, and win 4-3. It happened several times in the Washington series, and it happened again tonight. Every time the Flyers pull ahead by 2, they seem to fall back and allow the other team to dictate play. It's a recipe for disaster, and something they can't do against a team with as much firepower as the Canadiens. Of course, the referees also played a part in allowing the Canadiens to come back as well, which we'll get to later.

Not that the Flyers did much to deserve the two goal lead. The Flyers first goal was of the fluky variety, with a pass by R.J. Umberger being deflected into the net by Canadiens defender Patrice Brisebois. Umberger was trying to make a cross-ice pass and Brisebois was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Flyers then added a second goal late in the first period when Jim Dowd got a feed from Steve Downie and fired it in. It was a pure hustle goal created by the hard-working fourth liners. The Flyers were fortunate to enter the first intermission with a 2-0 lead as the Canadiens played well and had several chances hit off the post.

The second period was subsequently dominated by the Canadiens, who fought back to tie up the game. Andrei Kostitsyn got the Habs on the board when his brother Sergei raced down the ice and fed Andrei to cut the Flyers lead down to one. Montreal would tie the game up later in the period on a controversial short-handed goal. The Flyers made a terrible play on the power play that set up a short-handed 3 on 1 for the Canadiens where Tomas Plekanec shot the puck on net and Alexei Kovalev batted the puck with his stick down into the back of the net. The referees reviewed the play for several minutes, looking to see if the stick was above the crossbar, but they allowed the goal. Several replays clearly showed Kovalev's stick above the crossbar, but the refs must have thought that there wasn't enough conclusive evidence to wave it off. Bad call number one.

The Flyers took the lead early in the third period on another fluky goal. This time, on the power play, Joffrey Lupul deflected a Braydon Coburn shot off his shin and into the net to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. Lupul was in the right place at the right time for that goal much like he was in overtime in Game 7 against the Capitals. The Flyers then clamped down for the rest of the period, playing good shut-down hockey and keeping the Canadiens from getting clear looks on Martin Biron. Finally, in the final minute of play, Mike Richards tripped Alexei Kovalev with his knee, and the Canadiens went on the power play. The penalty was a legitimate one, though it was questionable as to why the refs would call it at that juncture in the game. Usually in the waning minutes of a close hockey game you can get away with just about anything and they let the minor infractions go. For whatever reason, they deemed Richards' play worthy of a penalty, and the Canadiens subsequently scored with 29 seconds left in the game to force overtime. That was absolutely not a call you make at the end of a playoff hockey game. Bad call number two.

The Canadiens then quickly finished off the Flyers on their first shift in overtime. 48 seconds in, Tom Kostopoulos grabbed a rebound that fired off Biron and pounded it home to give the Canadiens a 4-3 victory.

It was yet another disheartening loss for the Flyers. It was a game they should have won that they let slip right through their fingers with lots of help from the referees. It was remarkably similar to the first game against the Capitals when they made little mistakes that allowed the other team to get back in. Of course, one could argue that the Flyers were lucky to even be in the game, judging by the way they scored their goals. None of them were of the pretty variety, and their top scoring tandem of Danny Briere and Vinny Prospal was quiet all night.

This was certainly a game with a lot of ups and downs and mixed emotions. The Flyers were completely out-played by the Canadiens in the second period but looked like the better team for most of the third. The Flyers watched the clock melt all the way down into the final minute only to watch the Canadiens pull out a heart wrenching goal.

There are some positives to take away from this game for Philly. Despite not playing anywhere near their best hockey, they still had a great chance to steal a game on the road against a great team. The Flyers also did well to keep out of the penalty box for most of the night, not giving the Habs a chance to show off their potent power play. The Canadiens were also expected to be the much faster team but the Flyers were able to keep up with them for most of the game.

Game Two is Saturday in Montreal. The Flyers showed tonight that they won't be easily beaten, but they need to come out and play a full 60 minutes of hockey if they want to beat a team like the Canadiens who can score whenever they are given an inch of space. The Flyers managed to put out 59:31 of solid hockey tonight, but the Canadiens took what little was given to them and put the Flyers away. The Flyers will bounce back as they have shown time and time again, the question will be whether they have enough left in the tank to beat an elite team like Montreal

Video highlights of the game, complete with both controversial calls, from Comcast SportsNet:

Game 1 Flyers vs. Canadiens Live Game Blog Under Way!

Round Two kicks off tonight with the Flyers taking on the Canadiens. Check back right here at 6:45 pm for a Live Game Blog. Follow the action and discuss it with fellow Flyer fans!

Burrell leads Phillies past Brewers

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Pat Burrell looks like he wants to cash in this off-season. Burrell's contract runs out after this year, and while many Phils fans couldn't wait to see him go, he is silencing all the critics and putting up huge numbers this season. With the score tied 1-1 in the 8th inning of today's game with the Brewers, Burrell added to his league-leading RBI total by hitting a 2-run double that gave the Phillies a 3-1 win. Through 23 games this season, Burrell is hitting .355 with 8 homers and 25 RBI's. If he keeps up this current pace, he will shatter all of his career high numbers. How many people think Burrell, who is making just over 14 million this season, is overpaid now?

Burrell's hot start masks the further struggles of Ryan Howard, who didn't start today's game but entered in the 8th inning as a pinch hitter and got two at-bats, striking out both times to lower his batting average to .176. Every day I worry more and more about Howard and his ability to recognize pitches. While he goes into a funk every season that he eventually works his way out of, it's worrisome that the slumps seem to be getting longer every season.

In today's game, the Phils also got a solid pitching performance from Jamie Moyer, who went 6 innings and, despite giving up 8 hits and walking 3 batters, allowed only one run. The bullpen was lights out once again, with Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge combining for 3 shutout innings. Lidge was the only one of the relievers to give up a hit.

The Phillies, who are now back above .500, go to Pittsburgh next to take on the Pirates in a three game series. With the way Pat Burrell and Chase Utley (3 for 4 today) have been swinging the bat lately, if the Phillies don't take 2 out of 3 it would be disappointing.

Flyers vs. Canadiens: Second Round Breakdown

After a thrilling Game Seven victory, the Flyers got one day of rest and they are back to the ice tonight to begin their second round series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens got only one extra day of rest after they disposed of the Bruins on Monday, so fatigue could be a factor in this series. Most experts believe that the Canadiens should have no trouble dispatching the Flyers, but these are the same people that all predicted the Capitals would win. Can the Flyers beat the Canadiens? Let's take a closer look.

Offense: Both teams have balanced, deep scoring attacks. In their first round series alone, the Flyers got goals from 11 different players, while 12 players scored for the Canadiens. Neither team has one line you can key in on, both have three quality scoring lines. The Flyers have shown bursts of speed, but the Canadiens have a distinct speed advantage that will give the Flyers plodding D-men problems. Alexei Kovalev is the Canadiens most dynamic forward, but the Kostitsyn brothers aren't far behind. Kovalev has a tendency to go quiet for long periods of time, almost lulling opponents to sleep before he bursts through.

The Flyers depth takes a hit with the injury to Mike Knuble. While Knuble isn't the fastest or most skilled player, he brings leadership and toughness to the team. His loss also means that either Riley Cote or Steve Downie will suit up, two players that aren't the type of players you need in the playoffs. Danny Briere has been the Flyers best weapon, scoring 6 goals in the opening series, so expect him to continue his playoff dominance as he plays against the team he spurned playing for last offseason. EDGE: Canadiens, they're too fast and too skilled.

Defense:
Neither team is known for having great defense. The Flyers look like they are two defensemen short, as fans cringe whenever Jaroslav Modry or Jason Smith are trying to make a play. Smith had a horrendous -7 against the Capitals, and Modry didn't fair much better at -4. Derian Hatcher quietly played some of his best hockey against the Capitals, slowing down Alexander Ovechkin and even scoring a goal. Kimmo Timonen is still the key to the Flyer defense corps, he makes things happen on both ends of the ice. This group will be challenged constantly to keep up with the Canadiens, look for them to use their size and toughness to try to shut down any rushes.

The Canadiens don't have any particularly intimidating defensemen, but Andrei Markov and Patrice Brisebois are great at helping out on the offensive end. They also have Roman Hamrlik, who only seems like he's been playing forever. The Canadiens have a few forwards who are great at getting back and helping out, like Saku Koivu, but they still had issues slowing down the weak Bruins attack. EDGE: Flyers, but not by much

Goaltending:
The Canadiens traded away Cristobal Huet to give 20-year-old Carey Price the number on job, and he has taken on the role and flourished. Martin Biron is ten years older than Price, but they both have exactly seven games of playoff experience. Coming off a shut-out of the Bruins, Price is the hotter goalie, but Biron made some big stops to keep the Flyers in Game Seven. The hotter goaltender will win, and right now it looks like Price has been better, but he will be challenged more by the Flyers attack than he was by the Bruins. EDGE: Canadiens

The Canadiens aren't a good match-up for the Flyers. They are quick and skilled, and this series could look like the Sabres/Flyers series of a few years ago. The Flyers will try to use their toughness to slow down the Montreal attack, but it's tough to slow down three lines. They will also have to be careful not to take too many penalties because the Canadiens power play will make them pay. The Flyers will steal a game early, but the Canadiens have too much firepower and will win in six games. The season will still be a success for the Flyers, who went from the worst team in the league all the way to the final eight. They are still a few defenders short of having a championship team.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No upset this time: Pistons dominate Sixers in Game Two

Copyright 2008 NBAE (Photo by D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Looks like the real Pistons decided to show up for Game Two. After squandering a 15 point lead in Game One of the series, the Pistons got out to a big lead in Game Two and never allowed the Sixers to make a run, blowing them out 105-88. As I feared after the Sixers improbable win in Game One, the loss seemed to wake up the Pistons and force them to take the Sixers seriously.

Detroit featured a balanced attack with five players finishing at least 12 points. Rip Hamilton led them in scoring with 20 points, and also added 7 assists and 7 boards. Rasheed Wallace had another good game tonight, tallying 16 points, 7 boards and 3 blocked shots.

The Sixers had very few bright spots in the blowout. Louis Williams led the team in scoring with 17 points despite shooting 4 of 12 from the field. Reggie Evans built on his energetic performance in Game One, grabbing 11 rebounds and notching 13 points. Andre Iguodala didn't even show up tonight, shooting 1 for 9 from the field and looked frustrated all game with how poor he was playing.

While this was an ugly loss for the Sixers, they still leave Detroit with the series tied 1-1. By stealing a game on the road, they did all that can be asked of them, stealing home court from the Pistons. They need to basically forget about tonight's game and focus on going home and protecting their court. The crowd will give them all the energy they need to get them pumped up, so it's up to them to come out and play their game.

The real Pistons showed up tonight and showed the Sixers exactly why this team has made deep runs into the playoffs several times over the last few years. It's now up to the Sixers to respond and show the Piston's that this is still going to be a series and that they won't be shut down again. If they can't muster a better effort in Game Three, they will give the Pistons all the confidence they need to wipe the Sixers right out of the playoffs.