Saturday, April 30, 2011

Flyers and Bruins set for Game 1

By Dan Di Sciullo

After pulling off a historic comeback against the Bruins in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, the Philadelphia Flyers will try to take an early lead today when they host Boston in Game 1 of this second-round set.

The Flyers became just the third team in NHL history to win a series after falling behind three-games-to-none when they ousted Boston in seven games during last year's East semis. Not only did Philadelphia rip off four straight victories to claim the series, it also overcame a 3-0 deficit in the opening period of Game 7 and won the decisive test in Boston by a 4-3 score.

Philadelphia was a seventh seed last year when it pulled off the amazing comeback and the Flyers went on to win the Eastern Conference title before losing in six games to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, the Flyers are a second seed and entered the postseason as Atlantic Division champions.

Boston has also improved its seeding from a year ago, as the Bruins were a sixth seed in 2010, but gained the third spot in the East after winning the Northeast Division.

Philadelphia earned a modest comeback in the opening round of this year's playoffs, taking the final two tests against Buffalo to bounce back from a 3-2 deficit in the series.

Like Philly, the Bruins had to go seven games in the first round to set up this rematch. Boston's playoff run did not get off to a good start, as the Bruins lost the first two games of the conference quarterfinals against Montreal on home ice. However, Claude Julien's club rebounded to win four of the next five games and Boston won a series after trailing 2-0 for the first time in franchise history.

This is the sixth all-time postseason encounter between the Flyers and Bruins. Philadelphia has won three of those series and last year's meeting was the first playoff battle between the clubs since 1978.

Goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton all started games in the Buffalo series, as the Flyers became the first team in 23 years to win a playoff series while starting three different netminders. The 1988 Detroit Red Wings were the last team to pull off the feat, as Greg Stefan, Glen Hanlon and Sam St. Laurent each started games in the first round against Los Angeles.

Boucher enters this round as the club's starting goaltender, but with the way the first round went one wouldn't think he has a strangle-hold on that job. Boucher wound up seeing time in six games during Round 1 and he started Games 3, 4, 5 and 7. He was also the recipient of all the victories in the series and finished the set with a 2.10 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Outside of Game 5, when Boucher surrendered a couple of fluky goals and was pulled after stopping just 8-of-11 shots, the 34-year-old veteran had a solid series. He stopped 50-of-53 shots in Games 6 and 7 combined.

The Flyers have tried to offset their lack of security in goal by putting together a deep defensive corps. The group is led by Chris Pronger and also features Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn and Sean O'Donnell. Meszaros and O'Donnell were not on the club last year when they posted the historic comeback against the Bruins.

Pronger missed the first five games of the opening round while recovering from a broken right hand that also caused him to miss the last 16 tests of the regular season. The former Hart and Norris Trophy winner was only used in power-play situations in Game 6, but he notched an assist and skated for 17 minutes, 27 seconds in the decisive seventh game.

Pronger had two goals and four assists in last year's conference semifinal series against Boston.

Danny Briere is a player to watch on offense for the Flyers. He scored six goals in the opening round, including two in Game 7, and had five goals and five assists in last year's series against Boston.

Briere has 94 points (41g, 53a) in 93 career playoff games.

Claude Giroux was Philadelphia's leading scorer in Round 1, notching nine points on one goal and eight assists.

The Flyers are hoping to get Jeff Carter back at some point in this series, but he is expected to miss Game 1. Carter, who led Philly with 36 goals in the regular season, suffered a sprained right MCL in Game 4 of the Buffalo series and hasn't played since.

The Flyers scored five times on the power play in the first round, but that was over 35 chances. Philadelphia did go 3-for-9 with the man advantage over Games 6 and 7.

Philadelphia also has room for improvement on the penalty kill after surrendering seven goals on Buffalo's 31 chances with the man advantage.

Boston has a handful of new faces on its roster this year, but the biggest change could be the resurgence of a player who was on the active roster when the Flyers and Bruins met last year. That player is goaltender Tim Thomas, who is back in form after somewhat of a lost season in 2009-10.

After winning the Vezina Trophy for the 2008-09 season, Thomas lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask during the following regular season. Rask wound up seeing all the time in the playoffs, starting all 13 games. He did an admirable job, going 7-6 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

This year, Thomas, who was bothered by a hip injury in 2009-10, has regained his swagger and picked up another nomination for the Vezina Trophy after going 35-11-7 with nine shutouts and a sparkling 2.00 GAA. The 38-year-old also set an NHL record with a .938 save percentage, beating former Buffalo netminder Dominik Hasek's mark of .937 from the 1998-99 campaign.

Thomas had a solid showing in the opening round against the Habs, recording a 2.25 GAA and a .926 save percentage over the seven games.

Of course, Thomas has one of the league's most feared defensemen playing in front of him in Zdeno Chara, the 6-foot-9 Slovakian with the hardest slap shot in the world. Chara won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman in 2009 and he is a finalist for the award this year after posting 14 goals, 44 points and a plus-33 rating this season.

While Boston excels at making it tough for the opposition to score, the Bruins weakness is scoring. This was especially true of Boston's power play in the opening round, as the B's failed to score a single goal on 21 opportunities with the man advantage. It marked the first time in NHL history that a team won a seven games series without scoring a power-play goal.

Boston also allowed six goals on Montreal's 27 chances with the man advantage.

The Bruins had four players with two goals or more in the opening round. Chris Kelly and Nathan Horton each had three tallies, while Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder hit the net twice.

A big turning point during Philadelphia's comeback against Boston last year was the injury suffered by Boston forward David Krejci in Game 3. Krejci suffered a broken wrist on a crushing hit by Philadelphia's Mike Richards and never returned to the series.

Krejci tied Milan Lucic for team lead with 62 points in the regular season, but the former had just one goal in the opening round. Lucic, who had five goals and two assists in the conference semis last year, had two assists in Round 1 against the Habs.

The Bruins got the better of Philadelphia in this year's regular season, taking three of the four meetings and outscoring the Flyers by a 13-8 margin. Philadelphia's only win came in an overtime victory on Dec. 11.

Van Riemsdyk and Richards led the Flyers with three points apiece in the season series, while Krejci paced Boston with four assists.

Thomas was 3-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA against the Flyers this season. Boucher was 1-2-0 with a 2.95 GAA versus the Bruins.

The Flyers, who will also host Game 2 on Monday, had a 22-12-7 record as the host this year. Boston, meanwhile, posted a 24-12-5 mark as the guest in the regular season.

Philadelphia was 2-2 on home ice against the Sabres in the opening round, while the Bruins went 2-1 in Montreal.

Media talks with new Eagles CB Curtis Marsh

On whether he thought the Eagles would draft him:
“I had a little bit of a sense. I really had a good feeling after my trip up to Philadelphia and meeting with [secondary/cornerbacks] coach Johnnie [Lynn] and [head] coach [Andy] Reid and coach [Juan] Castillo. So I had a really good feeling going into the draft about Philadelphia.”

On where he’s at in his development as a cornerback:
“I feel like I’m at a very high level. I had a great position coach Corey Raymond that helped me along in my transition. Right now I feel like just any other corner in the country. I don’t feel like I’m making a transition. I’m just out there playing and I felt like I was playing at a very high level at the end of the season. I feel really comfortable at corner and I’m just really anxious to learn NFL schemes, to learn Philadelphia schemes and depths and contribute substantially to the team.”

On why he converted from running back to cornerback:
“The first thing that happened was our coach Brent Guy got fired. We hired a new coach and we lost three seniors at the cornerback position the year before. We were kind of stacked at the running back position, so I saw an opportunity to help the team, you know, because I had played corner before and I knew that I was capable of playing at a high level and I knew that it was also my best shot for the NFL with my skill set. I saw it as an opportunity to come up to coach and approach him about switching positions.”

On how long it took him to feel comfortable in that scheme as a cornerback:
“I’d say it took that whole spring ball. I moved January and then we went through spring ball, so it took that whole spring ball for me to feel acclimated. That summer, working out and coming into my junior season of fall camp, that’s when I started to really feel like I was in the groove. Once spring ball hit my senior year I felt all the way acclimated. I just feel like that first six to nine months at the position. After that, you know, I was good.”

On how his father playing in the NFL helps with the transition:
“It helps because I can come and ask him questions if I need to. He’s my inspiration. When I was younger, the only reason I really wanted to play football was because I wanted to be just like him. Everyone thought it was so cool that he was in the NFL. That was kind of my inspiration for playing the game. If I ever need to ask him questions, you know, it is real convenient. Especially because him being a receiver and me being a corner because he lets me know a lot about what to expect in the next couple of months.”

On the decision behind attending the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, RI:
“Well, I mean, I wasn’t that highly regarded of a recruit coming out of high school. The United States Naval Academy was the only Division-I school that offered me a scholarship. I took it because I wanted to play Division-I football so bad without considering the whole military thing. When you go there, instead of redshirting you, they send you to the Naval Academy Preparatory School for one year and then you go to the Academy. I went there and I just realized that the whole military thing wasn’t for me. I just wanted to go to school and play football and get a chance at the NFL. When you go there it’s a tremendous opportunity, but military is first, school is second and then football. I was planning on leaving and going to junior college, but fortunately Utah State picked me up on a scholarship that very next spring when I came back home. I played four straight years after that.”

On what his biggest attributes are at the cornerback position:
“I would say my speed, my size and my arm length. I use them to my advantage especially in press coverage. I also think my intelligence. I feel like I don’t have a hard time at all ever learning schemes and things like that, so when I get on the field I’m able to play loose and compete. I’m just a competitor, you know, I’ve been playing this game since I was eight. When I’m out there my competitiveness I feel like takes over and I’m really hard on myself and I feel like that’s one of my best attributes.”

On where he’s at right now:
“I’m in Simi Valley, California, with my family in my hometown.”

On whether he expected that he would be drafted in the third round:
“I was expecting somewhere between the second and fourth [rounds]. So, yeah, the third round you could say that I definitely expected that.”

On his meeting with defensive coordinator Juan Castillo:
“He just said that they really like my game and they really like me as a person. I felt like it was a really good meeting with coach. I really like Coach Castillo. We were just kind of chatting it up. We were chatting about my background and he was kind of talking to me about his son who plays at the University of Iowa, a defensive back. We were just kind of vibing as people, not more so as much on a serious football note.”

On how long his reach is:
“I think it’s like 32 [inches] and some change, or something like that for my arm length. I’m not exactly sure, but I just know that the length of my arms helps me at the line in press.”

Media talks with new Eagles S and former Temple star Jaiquawn Jarrett

On what it’s like be drafted by a team in a city where he’s played for the last four years:
“This right here is one of the greatest situations ever coming, staying close to home so my family is right down the road. I’ve played in the Eagles stadium for the last four years so being able to play for [head] Coach [Andy] Reid as an Eagle is a dream come true.”

On where he lives:
“Brooklyn, New York.”

On whether he was surprised with the Eagles taking him:
“I’m very surprised right now just to have the opportunity to be part of a great organization.”

On whether the Eagles showed a lot of interest in him coming into the draft:
“They showed a lot of interest. They came to work me out several times with the whole defensive staff and the special teams coordinators. So they’ve seen something in me that other teams didn’t see and I really appreciate that staff for that.”

On his style of play and what he will bring to the Eagles if fans haven’t already seen him play:
“I’m going to bring physical toughness and a smart player to the Eagles stadium. If they haven’t seen me play over the past four years, I’m real disciplined and Coach Andy Reid loves those disciplined guys who are going to go out there and do whatever’s necessary to help the team win. And that’s what I’m all about.”

On whether he had any expectations of what round he would be drafted:
“No, I didn’t have any expectations. I’m just amazed and grateful that Coach Reid gave me the opportunity to play for him.”

On whether he thought he would be drafted in the second round:
“I didn’t think about any round, I was just hoping I got selected by a team.”

On whether the 40-yard dash time hurt him:
“I think a lot of teams shied away from my 40-yard time, but that just sees how fast you can run in 40 yards. I know a lot of teams like kids that are just natural football players, and that’s what Coach Reid saw in me. They didn’t really focus too much on my combine testing. They just saw how much of a great football player I can become.”

On whether he likes playing close to the line or playing deep at the safety position:
“I prefer to play both. I think I’m physical enough to show up in the run support and I have enough skills to prevent the deep ball so I think I will excel at playing both.”

On what he played most at Temple University:
“Yeah, at Temple I did a lot of both. I showed up in run support a lot coming out of the Cover 2 so I was playing the half field a majority of the time. And when I had an opportunity to show up in the run game I made sure my presence was felt.”

On whether he’s had a chance to see the Eagles’ defense and how they use their safeties:
“Yes, I did get the opportunity to see how the Eagles use their defense. When I met with coach [Juan] Castillo and coach [Mike] Zordich they showed me how they use their safeties in their secondary and they were telling me that I’d be a great fit.”

On whether he has seen any Eagles games in person:
“Yes, I went to a few Eagles games.”

On whether he’s at Temple University watching the NFL Draft:
“No, I’m at home in Brooklyn right now with my family.”

On what part of Brooklyn he’s from:

On whether the team spoke to him about possibly playing some cornerback:
“I haven’t heard any talks about me playing corner. Just talks about safety.”

On how much communication he has had with the Eagles due to his proximity:
“It was a lot of communication. I’ve played there for four years and I had the opportunity to meet the coaching staff when they came to the game. A lot of the former players on the Eagles came down and worked out with us. So it was a lot of communication back and forth. I got the opportunity to meet with Coach Reid. He had been coming down here to spring ball because his son is at Temple. So there was a lot of communication over the past couple weeks.”

On whom he thought was going to select him:
“I didn’t have a clue. You don’t know who’s going to get you. I’m grateful and blessed to be an Eagle.”

On whether it feels strange to now spend his pro career in the same city in which he played his collegiate career:
“No, it doesn’t feel strange because the Philadelphia fans will welcome you as if you were their brother or sibling.”

Villanova's Ijalana selected by Colts

Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana was selected Friday during day two of the National Football League's 2011 Draft in New York, N.Y. Ijalana is the highest drafted athlete from CAA Football since Delaware's Joe Flacco was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 18th pick overall in 2008.

Ijalana, an offensive tackle for the Wildcats, was taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round (49th overall).  The Hainesport, N.J., native finished his career as a consensus First Team All-American, a three-time First Team All-CAA Football honoree, and logged a 10th-place finish in the Outland Trophy Award voting at the end of the 2010 season -- given to the nation's top major college football interior lineman.  Ijalana led a Wildcat offensive front which averaged 194.9
rushing yards/game and just over 30 points/game.

Eagles grab Temple's Jarrett

Jarrett is the second Owl selected in the 2011 Draft so far. In first round action on Thursday, the New York Jets selected Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (Linden, N.J.).

Jarrett is the 60th Temple University football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1937. The Owl duo is the first multi-selection in a Draft since 2003.

Jarrett is also the sixth Temple player to be selected by the Eagles in the Draft in school history. [complete history listed below]  Ironically both the Eagles and Temple Owls play their games at Lincoln Financial Field.

A 2010 Pro Football Weekly All-American, Jarrett is a two-time first-team All-MAC honoree and team captain.  Jarrett started all 12 games at free safety in 2010 and played in every game of his collegiate career with 43 starts. Jarrett was the Owls' top defender with 74 tackles, and also had two interceptions, two break-ups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery last season. Named to the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, Jarrett was the recipient of the 2010 National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete and the 2010 Enterprise Spirit & Sportsmanship Awards. Jarrett will receive his degree in criminal justice on May 12.

The 2011 NFL Draft continues on April 30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  ESPN and the NFL Network will continue live television coverage.

Year       GP-S      S              A             TT           TFL         Sack       FF           FR           INT         QBH       PBU       Blk
2007       12-6       34           27           61           1.0-1      0.0          0              0              1-15       0              5              0
2008       12-12     53           35           88           1.5-1      0.0          0              3-18       3-57       0              4              0
2009       13-13     46           30           76           2.0-4      0.0          1              2-0          3-0          0              7              0
2010       12-12     41           33           74           2.0-2      0.0          1              1-28       2-30       0              2              0
Totals    49-43     174         125         299         6.5-8      0.0          2              6-48       9-102     0              18           0

Year        Rd.      Pick     Player          Name                                          Team                         Pos.
2011            1         30             30          Muhammad Wilkerson       Jets                            DT
                      2         22             54          Jaiquawn Jarrett                    Eagles                       DB
2008            3            8             72          Terrance Knighton                 Jaguars                     DT
2005            5         30           166          Rian Wallace                             Steelers                   LB
2003            4         20           117          Dan Klecko                                Patriots                    DT
                      7         23           237          Dave Yovanovits                     Jets                            OT
2002            7         27           238          Raheem Brock                         Eagles                       DE
2001            4         16           111          Mathias Nkwenti                   Steelers                   OT
1997            4         32           128          Alshermond Singleton         Buccaneers             LB
1996            2         27             57          Lance Johnstone                    Raiders                     LB
                      6         20           187          Jon Clark                                    Bears                         OT
1994            2            2             31          TrĂ© Johnson                             Redskins                  OL
1989            8         25           220          Todd McNair                            Chiefs                       RB
1988            3         23             78          Ralph Jarvis                               Bears                         DE
                      8         18           211          Mike Hinnant                           Steelers                   TE
1987            1         19             19          Paul Palmer                              Chiefs                       RB
                      6            5           145          Willie Marshall                         Packers                    WR
                   11         24           303          Larry Brewton                         Browns                     DB
1986            1            9                9          John Rienstra                           Steelers                   OG
                      6         20           158          Lloyd Yancey                            Cowboys                 OG
1985            3            5             61          Anthony Young                       Colts                          DB
1984            7            5           173          Kevin Ross                                Chiefs                       DB
1983            8         13           209          Mike McClearn                       Browns                     OG
1982          10            9           260          Gerald Lucear                          Vikings                      WR
1981          12         26           330          Mark McCants                         Falcons                     DB
1980            8         25           218          Mike Curcio                              Eagles                       LB
                      9            6           227          Mark Bright                              Colts                          RB
                   12         23           328          Wiley Pitts                                 Oilers                        WR
1979            8         26           218          Robert Brewer                        Chiefs                       OG
                   11         22           297          Zach Dixon                                Broncos                    RB
1977            6            5           144          Joe Klecko                                 Jets                            DT
                      6         25           164          Jim Cooper                               Cowboys                 OT
1976            3         32             92          Don Bitterlich                           Seahawks                K
1975            6         24           154          Harry Hynoski                          Browns                     RB
                      7            4           160          Steve Joachim                         Colts                          QB
                   17         13           429          Garry Webb                             Eagles                       DE
1973            4         19             97          Bill Singletary                           Chargers                  LB
                   10         14           248          Nick Mike-Mayer                   Falcons                     K
1970            9         15           223          Chris Fletcher                          Chargers                  DB
1969            8            3           185          Jim Callahan                             Falcons                     WR
1967          14         11           352          Mike Stromberg                     Jets                            LB
1966          20         13           303          Joe Petro                                   Browns                     QB
1958          30            2           351          Jim Thompson                         Eagles                       E
1955          18            7           212          Joe Stout                                   Giants                       B
                   29         12           349          Ted (Tex) Robinson               Browns                     B
1954          19         10           227          Bob Edmiston                          49ers                         T
1953            9            4           101          Pat Sarnese                              Steelers                   T
1952          24            4           281          Joe Tyrrell                                 Eagles                       G
1948            6            4             39          Phil Slosburg                            Yanks                        B
1946          15            4           134          Johnny Timko                          Bears                         C
                   19            2           172          Jack Burns                                 Yanks                        B
                   19            3           173          Bill Cloud                                    Steelers                   T
1945            7            8             62          Mike Jarmoluk                        Lions                          T
1944          19            9           195          Jimmy Woodside                   Steelers                   C
1943          22            4           204          George Sutch                          Cardinals                  B
                   27            3           253          Al Drulis                                      Cardinals                  G
1942          16            1           141          Andy Tomasic                          Steelers                   B
1940            5            7             37          Ed Kolman                                 Bears                         T
                   12         10           110          Ed McGee                                 Giants                       G
1937            9            6             86          Bill Docherty                             Redskins                  T

Jets select Temple's Wilkerson in 1st round

NEW YORK (4/28/11) – The New York Jets selected Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (Linden, N.J.) with the 30th pick of the First Round of the 2011 National Football League Draft on Thursday evening at Radio City Music Hall.

A two-time first-team All-MAC honoree, Wilkerson is the third First Round selection in Temple history and the first since 1987.  Becoming the 59th Temple University football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1937, Wilkerson joins Heisman runner-up/RB Paul Palmer (1987, 19th pick, Kansas City Chiefs) and OG John Rienstra (1986, 9th pick, Pittsburgh Steelers) as First Round selections.

Wilkerson is also the fourth Temple player to be selected by the Jets in the Draft in school history. [complete history listed below]

At 6-5, 305 lbs., Wilkerson was the recipient of the team’s defensive most valuable player honor last fall. Foregoing his senior season to enter the Draft, the team captain started all 12 games at tackle in 2010.  One of just seven Owls to start every game, he finished third in tackles with 70 and led the Owls with 13.0 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, he earned MAC Defensive Player of the Week accolades twice in 2010.

A social work major, Wilkerson intends to return to Temple to finish his degree.

There were four former Owls on NFL rosters last season-- DL Raheem Brock (Seattle Seahawks), LB Alex Joseph (San Francisco 49ers), DT Terrance Knighton (Jacksonville Jaguars), and DT Andre Neblett (Carolina Panthers). DB Dominique Harris (Buffalo Bills), OL Steve Maneri (New England Patriots), and DE Brian Sanford (Cleveland Browns) were members of NFL practice squads. Knighton was the last Owl to be drafted, selected in the third round (8th pick, 72nd pick overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008.

The 2011 NFL Draft continues on April 29-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  ESPN and the NFL Network will continue live television coverage.

Year       GP-S      S              A             TT           TFL         Sack       FF           FR           INT         QBH       PBU       Blk
2008       11-0       7              6              13           2.5-5      1.0-3      0              0-0          0              0              4              0            

2009       13-13      36           25           61           10.5-62   7.0-54     1              2-0          0             1             6             1

2010       12-12      45           25           70           13.0-80   9.5-75     2              1-0          0             2             3             0

Totals     36-25      88           56           144         26.0-147 17.5-132 3              3-0          0             3             13           1