Saturday, December 31, 2011
The scoring started fittingly enough with an Eric Lindros pass to John LeClair for a goal. Their line, along with Mark Recchi, looked like they were ready to take the ice for the Flyers in the real Winter Classic game and were a treat to watch, especially for a fan like me that grew up loving the Legion of Doom line. Lindros especially looked like his old dominant self and was more than welcomed home by Flyers fans with a huge ovation before the game.
The other great moment of the game was seeing Bernie Parent in goal for the first few minutes. While he wasn't pretty in the net, he did make a save and looked great in Flyers orange. The ovation he got before the game was fittingly second only to the cheers for Lindros.
Now we wait two days for the real Winter Classic game, which has a lot to live up to after the Alumni Game. While the hockey will certainly be better, the star power and sheer entertainment of the Alumni Game will be impossible to beat.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Here are the Flyers and Rangers rosters for the Winter Classic Alumni game:
Sunday, December 18, 2011
-The defense has turned from embarrassing to dominating in the last few weeks. While the Jets offense isn't exactly lethal, the Birds defense swarmed Mark Sanchez all game long and created havoc in the form of 4 sacks, 2 fumbles, including one returned for a touchdown, and two interceptions. Jason Babin led the charge, picking up 3 more sacks (giving him 18 on the year) as he abused Sanchez every chance he got. While Juan Castillo does deserve some credit for turning things around, this is how this defense should have been playing from Week 1.
-Turnovers were the only reason the Jets even had a chance of making the game close. The Eagles are still too careless with the ball and still prone to make boneheaded plays, especially on special teams. Michael Vick was careful with ball, only throwing one interception on a desperation heave at the end of the first half.
-Speaking of Vick, he wasn't slowed by injuries at all this week, dancing around the pocket as he found open receivers all over the field. While he still isn't sliding when he scrambles, Vick seemed much more mobile and much more like the quarterback that took the league by storm last season.
-Brent Celek has really turned his career around this season and now leads the Eagles in receptions. He has overcome his case of the dropsies to become a reliable receiver and is no longer a complete afterthought in the Eagles offense.
-Congratulations to LeSean McCoy for setting the club record for touchdowns in a season. He has proven time and again that he is the Eagles best offensive weapon and good things happen when he is fed the ball.
-Andy Reid won yet another challenge this week. Say what you will about his coaching job this season, he has been killing it on challenges this season.
-With the Giants losing to the Redskins, the Eagles are still somehow alive for the NFC East division title. All that has to happen is the Eagles have to win out, the Jets have to beat the Giants in Week 16 and the Giants have to beat the Cowboys in Week 17. Doesn't seem too far-fetched but doesn't seem all that likely, either. With the way the Eagles have been playing better the last few weeks, I don't think anyone in the NFC would want to play them in the playoffs. At the very least, it will make for a fun last few weeks in a season that appeared a total loss. Bring on the Cowboys next week!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Given that neither the Phillies or Rollins had many other options, it was only a matter of time before a deal was reached. Rollins should be a near-elite shortstop for the life of the contract so the Phillies did well to keep him in Philly.
Now that the shortstop position has been filled, what's next for the Phillies this offseason? Will they bring in another outfielder? Could they add another piece to the bullpen? The roster seems pretty set at this point but I wouldn't be surprised at one more signing in the coming days.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
This is a huge blow to the Flyers, who lose one of their biggest advantages they have over opponents: their depth on defense. Since Pronger is on LTIR, the Flyers will have some cap space to acquire someone of significance but he surely won't have the same impact as Pronger has in the back end.
The bigger question could be if Pronger will ever play hockey again. It's likely too early to tell but if he has already been ruled out for the next 5-6 months, he must be dealing with some very serious issues. Here's hoping the Flyers get their captain back next season if for no other reason than they are paying him big money for 5 more years.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Willis will be the second lefty out of the bullpen for the Phillies after Antonio Bastardo. At this point in his career, given his splits, Willis should be exclusively pitching to lefty hitters so hopefully he is used in that manner. As an added bonus, Willis, who hit .387 last year in 31 at-bats, can also be used as a pinch-hitter on occasion. He would certainly be a better option at the plate than someone like Michael Martinez.
This is a solid no-risk signing by the Phillies. Willis is already good friends with a few Phillies, including the (hopefully) soon-to-be-resigned Jimmy Rollins. If he is used in the right way he could be a useful part in a good bullpen.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
-This one was all about the defense. They came up with 9 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception in possibly their best effort of the season. Sure, the Dolphins were pretty horrible and couldn't hold onto the ball, but the Eagles D repeatedly created havoc and made big plays. Trent Cole and Jason Babin were especially disruptive, picking up 3 sacks each as they bore down on the Dolphins QB's.
-The Eagles defense was especially strong in short yardage situations, stuffing the Dolphins on several 3rd and 4th and shorts. Had they done that all season long, Juan Castillo would probably not have to worry about his job.
-Hey, I remember that DeSean Jackson guy! Nice of him to show up!
-LeSean McCoy didn't put up impressive numbers but the Eagles kept feeding him the ball, giving him 30 touches. He's still their best weapon even if he doesn't break one.
-The Eagles don't have the luxury of playing teams as bad as the Dolphins every week but they still looked strong. That has been the most frustrating thing about this season: we know they are capable of dominating. With games against the Jets, Redskins and Cowboys left, the Birds have a solid chance of at least getting to .500 and salvaging at least some respectability and possibly backing their way into a playoff spot. They could easily revert back to their terrible ways next week, however, so there is little reason to hold your breath.
Monday, December 5, 2011
The NHL standings and playoffs will look very different next season. After a 26-4 vote, the NHL Board of Governors has approved a new four conference system that will look like this:
Conference A: Ducks, Flames, Avalanche, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, Sharks, Canucks
Conference B: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Wild, Predators, Blues, Jets
Conference C: Bruins, Sabres, Panthers, Canadiens, Senators, Lightning, Maple Leafs
Conference D: Hurricanes, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals
The league will also feature a much more balanced schedule, with teams playing conference opponents 5 or 6 times depending on the size of the conference. Every team will also play every other team at least twice, once at home and once on the road. For the playoffs, each conference will be seeded 1-4 and they will play each other to determine a conference winner, who will then move on to the final 4 for the Stanley Cup.
Not all that much changes in terms of the conference for the Flyers, who will have all of their current division opponents plus the Capitals and Canes. What will be very interesting will be the playoffs, which will only allow four teams within the conference to advance to the playoffs and could potentially leave out a good team, especially in the Flyers deep conference.
The NHLPA still has to approve this realignment but it seems like a big win for the NHL, which is emphasizing rivalries and will once again allow every fan base to see every other team. Only allowing one team from each conference to make it to the Stanley Cup Semifinals will also make for some amazing early round playoff action between bitter rivals.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
The signing of Nix adds a left-handed bat to the outfield mix and figures to be amongst several options for the Phillies in left field. Nix won't play every day but will be a good platoon option against right-handed pitching and could push Ben Francisco out the door. His addition won't have much impact on Domonic Brown, who will still hopefully be given a chance to play in left field regularly.
With the Phillies likely set in the outfield, shortstop has to be next. I would bet that a deal for Jimmy Rollins comes sooner rather than later.