Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Nova takes down Delaware

Philadelphia, PA -- Kris Jenkins scored 15 points thanks to hitting four three pointers, to help No. 12 Villanova to a 78-47 rout of Delaware on Sunday and end a perfect opening month of the 2014-15 season. 

Daniel Ochefu had 12 points and six rebounds while Darrun Hilliard II gave 12 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who were coming off a slim five-point win against Michigan on Tuesday to win the Legends Classic.

Cazmon Hayes scored 17 points and Devonne Pinkard gave 11 for the Blue Hens (0-5), who have lost their past four games by double digits.

Villanova led this game from start to finish and held a 15-4 advantage off a 3-pointer from Hilliard 7 1/2 minutes in.

Delaware cut its deficit to five when Kory Holden hit back-to-back jumpers to make it a 17-12 game with under six minutes to play.  The hosts, though, closed the half on a 17-4 run to take a 34-16 lead into the break.

Hilliard's triples on consecutive possessions at the start of the second half keyed a 10-0 run which increased the Wildcats' edge to 44-16. Ochefu's emphatic slam capped the burst and essentially sealed the outcome.

"If Darrun has one flaw, it's that he's too nice," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "He's worried about everybody else, wants to be a leader, wants to take care of everyone. I told him yesterday: `just because you're a senior, you're not supposed to be perfect.'"

Delaware got no closer than 22 back the rest of the way. 

Villanova ended the day with a season-best 13 3-pointers, including nine after intermission. Much of that success was owed to the space created by the work of Ochefu on the interior - he scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half and helped Villanova construct its margin.

Notes: Delaware hosts Army on Wednesday ... Villanova, which also went undefeated last November, opens up its Big Five slate at La Salle on Wednesday ... Villanova upped its all-time mark to13-0 against Delaware ... The Wildcats shot 48.3 percent and held the Blue Hens to 31 percent shooting ... Villanova owned a 38-5 advantage in bench scoring and a 24-16 edge on points in the paint. The Wildcats were 28-of-58 from the field (.483) and 13-of-32 (.406) from distance.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Like father, like son: Hextall suspended by AHL

SPRINGFIELD, MA -- The American Hockey League announced on Saturday that Lehigh Valley Phantoms right wing Brett Hextall was suspended for onegame as a consequence of his actions in a game against Albany on Nov. 28. 

Hextall was assessed an instigator penalty for fighting Paul Thompson within the final five minutes of the third period, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension under the provisions of AHL Rule 46.22. 

Hextall will miss Lehigh Valley’s game tonight (Nov. 29) vs. Norfolk.

Lehigh Valley dropped a 4-2 decision to the Albany Devils in Atlantic City.

It's the first professional malfeasance for the 26-year-old Philadelphia native, North Dakota product and son of Flyers GM Ron Hextall -- who memorably racked up a whopping 26 games in three separate suspensions during his initial Philadelphia tenure.

Friday, November 28, 2014

(Orange and) Black Friday: Listless Flyers lose to Rangers

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

It was only nine days ago that Ron Hextall descended from his perch and delivered a brief, blistering post-game tirade after a passionless shutout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

It was only two days ago that the players closed the doors and discussed things amongst themselves after a three-goal loss in Detroit.

Whatever passed between management and skaters and between each other, it still hasn't registered fully. And the clock is ticking while the club is about to go on their first extended road swing of the season.

Cam Talbot extended his personal scoreless streak against Philadelphia this season to 120 minutes thanks to a 26-save performance, Rick Nash tallied a deflating short-handed goal in the third period, and the New York Rangers opened a home-and-home series with a 3-0 decision over the Flyers on Friday afternoon.

"It feels pretty good obviously, and the win is the big thing for us because we need the two points and we need to start putting a lot of games together here, and hopefully start a bit of a streak here," said Talbot. "(Today) was another good stepping stone for me, and hopefully moving forward I can continue to help the team win whenever I am in there."

Martin St. Louis hit a milestone with a goal, Dan Boyle also hit the net and Derek Stepan assisted on all three markers for the Blueshirts. The Rangers have won three of their last four -- and all by blanking their opponent (Flyers twice, Canadiens once).

Steve Mason did all he could to keep the visitors at bay, but despite his 21 saves, the hosts dropped their third straight contest and seventh in their last eight.

It's been the same players repeating the same problems for virtually three whole seasons and two coaches, but Flyers head coach Craig Berube thinks the root of his team's issues are a different kind of internal matter.

"I don't think it was an effort problem, I think it was a frustration problem. I didn't like the penalties. We have to get tougher mentally. They have to believe in themselves and trust each other. That's where it starts, I think. You lose your composure and become frustrated when you stop playing like a team."

Less than a minute into the game's first power play, created when Dominic Moore goaded Zac Rinaldo into a roughing call inside the New York defensive zone, Boyle took a St. Louis dish and ripped a shot from the left point which beat Mason inside the far post at 6:10 of the first period.

Moore went to the box just over a minute later for interfering with/kneeing Claude Giroux in his offensive zone, and Mason had to be quick to deny a Carl Hagelin break after he beat Mark Streit to a loose puck at center ice. The hosts only managed one shot -- from Vinny Lecavalier -- and no other quality chances.

Hextall who appeared in the locker room at home for the first time all year, for his part, stayed on the prime talking point with his own postgame message.

"I think the first period was all right and it seems like we came apart after that," he said in a distinctly calmer manner. I think our frustration level is high and we have to find a way to flush that out. There are no short-term fixes here. I will say this, that it's a better team than how we're playing right now and this is a better team than the record's (8-11-3) showing.

One thing that's clear from the off-ice perspective, is that while the symptoms have been diagnosed and discussed among this group, there are either no answers to the nature of the disease, or nothing concrete that anyone wants to share at this juncture.

After the Flyers failed to click on the initial advantage of the second period, the Rangers picked up another goal. Philly had two chances to clear the zone and failed, leading to Chris Kreider dishing to the right wing for Stepan. His shot was turned away by Mason but St. Louis slipped behind coverage to tap in the rebound at 4:14.  The marker was St. Louis' 1,000th career point.

"To get a thousand, it's a great accomplishment," St. Louis said. "I'm not going to hide my feelings, I'm proud of that. To do it in a win, and to do it on a goal, I think it makes it even more special."

Mason slid across his crease to close the five-hole and deny a Jesper Fast one-timer late in the Flyers' third power play of the contest, but they couldn't find the touch at even strength either.

As always, Berube has a simple explanation for what ails his team when only three players have contributed their share offensively: "You want me to score for 'em? We're gonna keep working, that's what we're gonna keep doing. If we have to win games 3-2, 2-1, 1-0 that's what we have to do."

New York failed to mount much offense on a Jakub Voracek slashing minor just over 2 1/2 minutes into the third period, but when Kreider turned his raised stick into Sean Couturier's mouth at 4:33, it was a prime chance for the hosts to turn things around with a four minute advantage.

Instead, the Rangers tripled their lead. Caught with just Streit back, Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Nash broke up ice 3-on-1, with the former dishing across to the latter for a dagger from the right circle 5 1/2 minutes in. 

These clubs meet again tomorrow afternoon in Manhattan, the first of five away from home and across the continent for Berube's flatlined roster.

"We just have to finish the job once we hit the ice tomorrow," St. Louis said. 

Notes: Talbot is the first Rangers goaltender to shut out the Flyers twice in one season since Steve Valiquette did so during the 2007-08 season ... His shutout streak against Philly now stands at 156 minutes, 27 seconds dating back to relief duty in Game 6 of last Spring's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series ... St. Louis became just the sixth undrafted player to reach 1,000 points in the NHL, after Wayne Gretzky, Paul Stastny, Dino Ciccarelli, Joe Mullen and Adam Oates ... Pierre-Edouard Bellemare skated only 7:36 in the contest, far and away the lowest total for any player on either team ... Though the Flyers' penalty killers, ranked 30th in the NHL, held the Rangers on five of six short-handed situations, the Rangers had seven shots to Philly's five on six power-play chances ... Jason Akeson cleared waivers and was assigned to Lehigh Valley of the AHL. 

Sanchez has Thanksgiving to remember as Eagles thrash Cowboys

Arlington, TX -- The game Birds fans waited 25 long years to see did not disappoint. 

Two years removed from an embarrassing incident in a Jets blowout loss to the Patriots, Mark Sanchez achieved redemption, throwing a touchdown pass and running for another score as the Philadelphia Eagles seized sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a resounding 33-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Sanchez had 217 yards on 20-of-29 passing, and LeSean McCoy posted 159 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries for the Eagles (9-3), who raced out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back on their way to improving to 6-0 on Thanksgiving.

The only thing preventing the score from being even more lopsided was Philadelphia's inefficiency in the red zone. The Eagles scored a touchdown only once and settled for four Cody Parkey field goals in five trips, but it didn't come back to haunt them because of a strong defensive effort.

The Eagles ended Tony Romo's consecutive games streak with a touchdown pass at 38 and held league rushing leader DeMarco Murray to under 100 yards.

Romo completed 18-of-29 passes for 199 yards and threw two interceptions as Dallas (8-4) dropped its third straight home game.

"Today was an opportunity that we didn't cash in on, but we have to learn from this game and move forward," said Dallas head coach Jason Garrett.

Murray failed to reach the century mark for only the second time in 2014. He finished with a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries against the Eagles.

The teams will meet again in Philadelphia on Dec. 14.

The Eagles started quickly as back-to-back runs of 13 yards by Darren Sproles and 36 yards by McCoy placed the ball at Dallas 22. Sanchez capped the game's opening drive by scoring on an option keeper from the 2.

After a Dallas punt, Sanchez picked apart the Cowboys secondary, completing 5- of-6 passes on an 88-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard touchdown grab by rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

"Our guys came ready to play. They played with great energy," said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

The Cowboys responded as Dez Bryant's 38-yard catch along the right sideline set up Murray's 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

Philadelphia got another big play the next time on offense. Sanchez found an uncovered Jeremy Maclin, who cut across the field to the Dallas 20 on a 58- yard catch-and-run. Sanchez had fumbled on the previous play, but offensive lineman Andrew Gardner alertly pounced on the ball.

Parkey nailed a 31-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 17-7 with 12:10 left in the first half.

The former Auburn kicker added two more field goals inside the final two minutes to put Philadelphia up 23-7 at halftime. The rookie made a 22-yarder and then hit a 26-yarder following a fumble by Dallas wideout Cole Beasley.

McCoy fumbled on the Eagles' first drive of the second half, leading to a 28-yard Dan Bailey field goal, but he atoned for the turnover with a 38-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter.

Parkey made a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Notes: The Eagles won the only previous meeting between the teams on Thanksgiving by a 27-0 score on Nov. 23, 1989 ... The Cowboys fell to 29-17-1 all-time on the holiday ... Maclin had 108 yards on eight receptions and posted his first career 1,000-yard receiving season ... McCoy eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth time in five seasons ... Bryant caught four passes for 73 yards ... The Eagles converted 8-of-15 third downs and outgained the Cowboys by a 464-267 margin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'Nova pulls off late stunner against Michigan

Brooklyn, NY -- JayVaughn Pinkston put Villanova ahead and then kept the Wildcats in front.

Pinkston hit a go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left and then blocked Zak Irvin at the other end as the 12th-ranked Wildcats defeated No. 19 Michigan 60-55 on Tuesday night in the Legends Classic championship game.

Pinkston, who was called for an offensive foul with 31 seconds remaining after powering into Derrick Walton on the right block a possession prior, barreled into a flopping Caris LeVert. Pinkston then went up and nailed the short jumper to give the Wildcats a 56-55 edge.

Michigan had seven seconds on the clock after Walton was stripped and Spike Albrecht fed a cutting Irvin down the paint. Pinkston met him at the rim and emphatically swatted his shot away.

Ryan Arcidiacono sunk a pair of foul shots with four ticks to play and Max Bielfeldt tossed the ensuing inbounds away. Arcidiacono then hit two more free throws to seal the outcome.

Dylan Ennis netted 15 points, while Pinkston finished with eight points and nine rebounds for Villanova (5-0), which outscored VCU by 22 points in the second half en route to a 77-53 win in the semifinals Monday.

LeVert posted 16 points, six boards and three steals and Irvin added 11 points for the Wolverines (4-1), who held off Oregon 70-63 Monday to reach the title game.

A LeVert 3-pointer staked Michigan to a 20-18 advantage with 7:17 left in the opening half, but the Wolverines were held without a point for the next 9:54 of game action.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, outscored them 15-0 during this stretch.

Villanova led 27-20 at the break and Pinkston's dunk made it 33-20 early in the second half.

The Wolverines proceeded to make seven of their next nine shots, and an Albrecht right wing triple put Michigan in front by a 39-38 count with 11:20 to play.

Michigan was up 51-43 before Villanova ripped off eight straight, with Ennis' left corner trey tying the game at 51-51 with 2:44 remaining.

A bit later, LeVert sandwiched jumpers around a Pinkston basket for a 55-54 Michigan spread with 58 ticks on the clock.

Notes: Both teams combined to shoot just two foul shots in the first half. Villanova missed both of its attempts ... Villanova shot 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from the field, while Michigan finished 41.1 percent (23-of-56) from the floor.

Temple tops Penn as Big Five play commences

Philadelphia, PA -- Mark Williams poured in a game and career high 24 points, as the Temple Owls defeated the Penn Quakers, 76-67, as the 2014-15 Big Five season kicked off for both city programs at the Liacouras Center.

Williams shot 8-of-12 from the field for Temple (3-2) and 6-of-7 at the foul line. Will Cummings stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Quenton DeCosey and John Brown netted 14 and 11 points, respectively.

For Penn (0-4), Tony Hicks scored 17 points, Matt Howard tallied 15 points and Darien Nelson-Henry logged 12 points and eight rebounds.

Jacked up in front of a friendly crowd on North Broad Street, the Owls jumped out to an early 12-2 lead over the first 4 1/2 minutes, but Penn stole that momentum and turned the tables with a 16-5 run of its own to take an 18-17 lead just past the 10-minute mark.

The next five minutes saw three ties as the teams battled back and forth. Temple pulled back ahead by five with 5:20 left, but Hicks came right back with five points for Penn for another deadlock.

Temple went into intermission with a 44-37 lead after shooting 41.9 percent from the field in the first half. Penn lagged behind at just 36.7 percent shooting.

The Owls built a lead as large as 11 in the second half, but while the Quakers managed to get their deficit to just one, 60-59, with under 10 minutes to play, they were never able to take the lead. Temple knocked down 6-of-7 at the foul line over the final 1:15 to seal their opponents' fate.

Penn committed a game-high 19 turnovers, which Temple was able to covert into 21 points. The Owls have won eight in a row over their Ivy rivals, since dropping a 76-74 decision at the Palestra on Jan. 24, 2007. Temple also upped its record to 14-3 against Penn since 2000.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

14 and counting as Sixers fall to Portland

Philadelphia, PA -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 33 points and 11 rebounds to help the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers beat the winless Philadelphia 76ers 114-104 on Monday.

Wesley Matthews added 17 points for the Blazers, who have won eight in a row. Damian Lillard tallied 16 points.

Michael Carter-Williams ended with 24 points and seven rebounds for the Sixers (0-14). Henry Sims and Tony Wroten had 22 and 20 points, respectively.

"Nobody is rolling over or pointing fingers," 76ers coach Brett Brown said despite his team being just four defeats away from the New Jersey Nets' NBA record for losses to start a given season. "This locker room is great." 

Each of Philly's next four games -- home against Brooklyn on Wednesday, home against Dallas on Saturday, welcoming San Antonio next Monday and at Minnesota next Wednesday are all winnable and losable at the same time. 

The Sixers led 52-50 following a first half that featured seven lead changes and 13 ties.

Trailing 62-59 with nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Blazers went on a 21-6 run. Aldridge tallied eight points during the surge that Nicolas Batum capped with a slam for an 80-68 lead.

Aldridge and Lillard scored 15 and 10 points, respectively, in the third to help Portland grab an 89-80 advantage. The Blazers outscored Philadelphia by a 39-28 margin in the period.

The Sixers used a 9-0 run to get within 100-93 with 4:22 to play. However, Portland responded with a 7-2 spurt to put the game away.

"That was a tough game, both teams kind of got off to a slow start," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "I think you really have to give credit to Philly for the way they got after us defensively... We did much better, obviously, at both end of the court in the second half."

Notes: Portland is 9-1 when scoring 100-plus points and 6-0 against Eastern Conference opponents ... It is the worst start for the Sixers since they opened the 1972-73 campaign 0-15 ... Robin Lopez had 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Blazers ... Nerlens Noel tallied 12 points, three steals and two blocks for the 76ers.

Around the Rink: Record-Setters and Remembrance Edition

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

We've hit the quarter pole for the 2014-15 season, and with a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, the Flyers have failed to reach the .500 mark, carrying an 8-9-3 record despite Steve Mason recording his first shutout of the season.

That means Craig Berube's record in the first 20 games of both his seasons behind the bench for the club can be classified as, on the surface, modest at best.

He actually had it better last season as his tenure began to unfold just as Claude Giroux awoke from his scoring slumber, and despite canning Peter Laviolette, Berube's record after his first 20 games was 10-8-2. 

Beginning last Saturday in Montreal, the Flyers face 17 of the next 24 games, until January 6, on the road. Included in that punishing run are streaks where seven-of-eight are away from home which began last night on Long Island and will end with the final contest of five straight across the continent in Columbus on December 9, and then a season-high eight straight in parts beyond Philadelphia from Dec. 20 at Toronto through Jan. 3 in New Jersey.

If you haven't been a fan of Berube's line shuffling game-to-game and within any particular game, you might not be pleased at what he has to offer during this crucial stretch. Even when Michael Raffl comes back from his ankle injury, and barring any deals from Ron Hextall, we're looking at the same mess from the bottom three lines which has existed from the outset.

A hard-working man whose hockey intelligence has been debated in certain quarters including right here, it's possible Berube won't be able to squeeze more blood from a stone no matter who was healthy. That brutal late-season stretch where the Flyers had to encounter the Penguins twice, Blackhawks, Blues, Stars, Kings and Rangers in a 10-day span, the players were proving to themselves that they were capable of pushing through and becoming a playoff team.

Only eight months ago, it was a referendum on the ceiling of the current team that they went 5-2-0 including five straight wins to begin that crucible; now, this near-identical crop of talent may essentially be playing for their own jobs and that of their head coach.

Alchemy has long been debunked as junk science and akin to magic, but if any fans believe in Berube's viability as an NHL head coach, he's going to have to try and turn some lead into gold as the Devils, Rangers, Capitals and Islanders have all surpassed the Flyers so far with talent that may not be equal top to bottom. Whatever he's learned about the way this team functions through nine of the first 15 at home and now two shutouts in the span of less than a week, must be put into action.

For those who have been around long enough, you can think of four, five, six other head coaches -- Flyers bosses past and other coaches present -- who might be able to use their brains and experience to make something better of what's here.

On the other hand, he can't make Luke Schenn or Nicklas Grossmann skate faster, can't make Andrew MacDonald not make questionable decisions with and without the puck. And apparently, he can't shake Matt Read and Sean Couturier out of their offensive funks. Nor can he make Vinny Lecavalier any kind of shape that can fit into its proper slot or R.J. Umberger not be a drag on any line which he skates or Brayden Schenn make the consistent decisions that have netted him prime scoring chances in roughly half the games this season. While an argument can be made as to why Jason Akeson is in the press box, it's not Berube's fault an AHL scorer has been miscast as a fourth-liner in the NHL or may not be NHL material at all.

Who knows? The league is living life out of balance in the 21st Century, where home is considered a detriment to morale with the pressure to perform. Bonds are forged on the road where there's little time to practice and a player or coach has to call upon all he's learned to make the best of constant motion in unfamiliar spaces. 

Hextall perhaps didn't foresee having to make some big decisions midway through his first season in Paul Holmgren's chair. While preaching patience with development of talent in the pipeline is good for the long-term vision, there needs to be urgency in the present to remedy a club which is an eyelash away from dropping out of serious playoff contention before the season's half over.

Trail Blazing Jake 

Jakub Voracek's ascension to the top of both the Flyers' scoring list and the NHL's list of crack shots has been nothing short of amazing for a club in desperate need of secondary scoring, but it's not unprecedented.

Nonetheless, with points in 17 of Philadelphia's first 20 games of a season, the 25-year-old Czech winger has gained the eye of the tiger thus far and joined some elite company in franchise annals.

Thanks to Flyers History, I managed to uncover at least 13 players who have recorded at least one point in 15 of the club's first 20 games during a season. Unfortunately, all of 1983-84 has been left off the ledger (Thanks, Flyers History). It's a partially incomplete list, but taking into account only those skaters who were healthy and performing well enough to participate in each of the team's first 20 games of a given season, the following, in alphabetical order, have attained that rarified air:

Bill Barber (15-of-20, 1979-80; 16-of-20, 1980-81)
Rod Brind'Amour (15-of-20, 1998-99)
Bobby Clarke (16-of-20, 1975-76; 17-of-20, 1979-80)
Peter Forsberg (17-of-20, 2005-06)
Simon Gagne (16-of-20, 2005-06)
Tim Kerr (18-of-20, 1985-86)
Eric Lindros (17-of-20, 1992-93) 
Ken Linseman (15-of-20, 1979-80)
Dave Poulin (15-of-20, 1985-86)
Brian Propp (17-of-20, 1979-80; 15-of-20, 1984-85; 17-of-20, 1985-86; 15-of-20, 1986-87)
Mark Recchi (19-of-20, 1992-93)
Mike Richards (16-of-20, 2007-08; 15-of-20, 2008-09)

Yes, it was no surprise that the majority of those compilations occurred during the NHL's rise in scoring, and yes, it was a surprise that Propp came away with the most instances of a single player given that Clarke hit the 100-point plateau in each of his three seasons where he was awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

Voracek has been one of just three players nobody has had to wring hands over this year, Giroux and Mason the others. There's an inevitable drop-off coming, something which even Wayne Gretzky could not avoid during the years he rewrote the record books, but if the last 60 games are anything like the first, Philadelphia will have its second straight Hart Trophy candidate. As always, ask that question in January or February when the stats match the effort and might overcome attrition. 

Saint Patrick at the Pearly Gates

Most of the hockey world was shocked to wake up Monday morning and find out that Pat Quinn, a former NHL defenseman and head coach for five clubs passed away at the age of 71.

The Hamilton, ON native's coaching career began in earnest in the Philadelphia organization, at the outset of the 1978-79 season for the club's AHL affiliate in Maine. He lasted all of 47 games there -- but not due to failure. He guided the Mariners to a 27-13-7 record, but in early February, with Bob McCammon floundering as a rookie NHL head coach and the Flyers treading water at 22-17-11, Quinn was elevated from Portland to the big club.

He finished the year 18-8-4 -- despite his big crisis in having to figure out who would tend goal after the career-ending eye injury suffered by Bernie Parent less than three weeks into his new job -- and helped a club at the end of the Broad Street Bullies era pull out a playoff series win over Vancouver before the Rangers ran roughshod in the quarterfinals.

Everybody knows what happened the next season: a Patrick Division title, best record in the NHL at 48-12-20 and a still-standing professional-sports record of 35 straight games without a loss. That the Flyers lost to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final is a testament to how much healthier and better rested their opponents were in the end: Philly finished the regular season just 3-5-5 and Bobby Clarke admitted in Full Spectrum that his team "was not in good shape."

Nonetheless, Quinn became just the second Flyers head coach to that point who earned the Jack Adams Trophy as the best bench boss in the league. 

The Orange and Black finished with 97 points in 1980-81 but suffered a surprise Game 7 Spectrum loss to the Calgary Flames in the second round, then despite a 7-0-1 start in 1981-82, they struggled through prolonged losses of Clarke and Paul Holmgren as well as the cutting of Reggie Leach to make way for younger talent which was not up to speed.  Quinn was dumped with eight games left in that season for none other than McCammon -- who proved himself back down at Maine by winning a Calder Cup.

Quinn's first game back in Philadelphia behind the L.A. Kings bench occurred on Feb. 7, 1985. In a stunner, the Flyers raced out to a 4-0 lead after only 21:13 of regulation behind goals from Mark Howe, Brian Propp, Dave Poulin and Ron Sutter.

However, the purple and gold reversed course, managing to tie the game thanks to scores from future part-time Flyer and Hershey Bear player Carl Mokosak, Brian Engblom and back-to-back markers from Bernie Nicholls before the end of the second period.

"Of course this was special. I loved the place ... I had wonderful years here, and that's sort of an emotional thing I'll always treasure," Quinn told the Inquirer after the game, which allowed Los Angeles an even split (1-1-1) of the season series.

He couldn't resist a barb at the way the game turned out: "I think they got a little fat when they were up 4-0. It happens to teams." Which of course, drew the predictable flat response from Mike Keenan: "What Pat Quinn said about us being fat cats is not accurate. The demeanor of this team is that we're not cocky. We're not that kind of team."

Keep in mind, that despite the blown lead, the Flyers were 29-16-7 and nine points behind Washington for first place in the Patrick Division, but the Kings were only 23-21-10 though 19 points away from last-place Vancouver and 26 away from Edmonton in the Smythe Division.

Two seasons later, Quinn was suspended by the NHL for maneuvering behind the scenes to become the coach and GM of the Vancouver Canucks. The man picked by the Canucks to act as caretaker before Quinn was allowed to work in the league again? Bob McCammon. "Cagey" held on for 3 1/2 seasons before Quinn came back to the bench at the end of the 1990-91 season.

There Ain't No Island left for Islanders Like Him

When I woke up yesterday morning and saw the New York Islanders in first place, there were tears in my ears as I lay there and thoughts turned 3 1/2 hours to the North and East. 

My friend, Ted Graboski, died in July. He was 35 years old, left behind a wife and 5-month-old son and was driven to the brink of some dark places either directly or indirectly by the woman he chose as his wife. He now occupies a similar space as some other random flotsam and jetsam in the Atlantic Ocean, and with any luck and the flow of the Gulf Stream, by now, he's floating somewhere up near Newfoundland.

I did not find out about it until a random internet search turned up his death notice in the Bridgehampton, New York paper one dark and cool late October early morning when I could not unwind sufficiently from a work shift lasting into the wee small hours. 

He was a year younger than me and a year behind at Boston College. We became friends through a class in the first semester of my junior year, and really began to click once we were paired together on WZBC's presentation of BC Eagles hockey during the first semester of my senior year. We were like bookends, chaos and mayhem with boyish charm, and I won't lie -- we made a killing with the ladies. Something like 80 percent efficiency, which never happened before and will neve, ever happen again.

And then the bastard went off and spent a semester in Scotland, leaving me to finish up my collegiate career getting drunk largely playing Trivial Pursuit, FIFA and Madden with my roommates, though I forged a closer personal and professional bond with another classmate from my year who now plies his trade down in North Carolina.

Anyway, Ted was a supreme dumb Polack, an inveterate Yankee fan, loved his family, was the last child and only son of four, loved the land of his native Long Island and never missed a chance to help his father plant potatoes on the family farm each Spring. He was also a long-suffering supporter of the New York Islanders.

When we first crossed paths, the Isles were the dregs of the NHL, pinning their defensive hopes on a gangly Slovakian rookie named Zdeno Chara, their goaltending hopes on Tommy Salo and Wade Flaherty, and giving Ziggy Palffy absolutely nothing to work with up front.

As a second-generation Polish-American, he was enamored with Mariusz Czerkawski. There were many times he'd proudly show off his Isles home jersey emblazoned with #21 on the back, and crow about how he was the best player (once Palffy was shipped to LA) on a horrendous team and how that was an ironic statement about ethnicity and hockey life. That uniform hung proudly in a Glasgow dorm, in the Hamptons and in multiple closets in high-rise apartments in Manhattan before its final resting place in Bayside, Queens.

When the Islanders raced out to that unexpected 11-1-1-1 start to the 2001-02 season, guess who was on the phone leaving messages at my house because his team was in first place and my team just had Jeremy Roenick? I waited until the end of the year to razz the crap out of him because the Flyers and Islanders both were bounced in the first round ... but he still got the best of me with the Isles losing in seven to the Leafs and the Flyers scored two goals in a five-game loss to the Senators.

And when Czerkawski returned to Uniondale in 2003 after an unproductive one-year exile on Ste. Catherine Street, he'd clog up my cell phone talking about the Great Mariush.

My last meaningful interaction with Ted came just after the Phillies lost to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, and again, no shortage of playful razzing as we exchanged phone messages and finally caught up for real on the phone near Christmas.

Flash forward to the start of this season, and I'm not believing what I see each night on the highlights or each day in the standings: the Islanders were challenging the revamped Penguins for Metro Division superiority. So, they ended up with a convincing weekend sweep of Pittsburgh and occupy first place for the first time this "late" in a season in forever.

Damn, do I ever wish Ted was on this plane of existence to experience it. I just might have to adopt them in his place, because the club is fresh and young and there is no ceiling yet. I know two things for sure: He'd have been to 20 home games if he could this year in the final season at the Mausoleum, and he'd NEVER deign to travel into Brooklyn to see the Islanders, even from Queens.

I'm 36. No brothers or sisters, my cousins are much older, have kids of their own. Unmarried, no significant other, sports media keeps me busy at times when others would be social. Parents about to retire to Arizona in less than two years. There's only one thing I really want for Christmas but I doubt I will be successful: that Czerkawski jersey.

It would hang in my closet next to my original Boston College jersey -- the one with most signatures from that national finalist team from 2000 and the road Flyers orange uniform signed by several players from the 80s -- and never be touched, and never be sold, and only dragged out for special occasions, like a hockey league championship as a personal talisman.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eagles tune up for Thanksgiving with sloppy win over Titans

Philadelphia, PA -- The Philadelphia Eagles bounced back from a blowout loss with their seventh 30-point game of the season.

And while it wasn't a classic thrashing of a lesser opponent as an appetizer to the main course this week, it will do just fine. 

LeSean McCoy led the way in Philadelphia's 10th consecutive regular-season home win, a 43-24 decision over the Tennessee Titans -- Philly's first win over the franchise since it relocated from Houston following the 1996 season.

McCoy carried the ball 21 times for 130 yards and a score for the Eagles (8-3), who rebounded from last Sunday's 53-20 defeat at Green Bay. Darren Sproles rushed for 25 yards and one touchdown on six carries.

Mark Sanchez completed 30-of-43 passes for 307 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for Philadelphia, which will play at Dallas on Thanksgiving in a highly-anticipated NFC East matchup.
Jordan Matthews caught six passes for 77 yards for the Eagles, who improved to 7-0 this season against teams .500 or worse. Cody Parkey made 5-of-6 field goals.

"I think our attention was totally on Tennessee because we only get to play one game per week, so there was nothing else to look for other than getting ready for (the Titans). I think these guys have done a great job of staying in the moment and playing a good game," said Eagles coach Chip Kelly.

Zach Mettenberger connected on 20-of-39 passes for 345 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Titans (2-9), who have lost five in a row.

Delanie Walker caught five passes for a career-high 155 yards for Tennessee, which lost left tackle Taylor Lewan to an ankle injury. Justin Hunter caught four passes for 64 yards and a score.

The Eagles quickly put the loss to the Packers behind them as rookie wide receiver Josh Huff returned the opening kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown. It was Huff's first career touchdown and the longest kickoff return in franchise history besting the previous record set by Timmy Brown (105 yards) in 1961 against Cleveland.

After forcing a three-and-out, Philadelphia started from its own 49. McCoy carried the ball four times for 31 yards before Sproles scored from four yards out.  Parkey added a 36-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 3:25 left in the first quarter.

"That's not the way you want to start the game off," said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. "It's tough. But to get down 17-0, I thought we made a good recovery in the second quarter."

The Titans used a big defensive play to take some momentum away from the Eagles. Sanchez was picked off by Brandon Ghee at the Philadelphia 30. On 2nd- and-20, Hunter caught a deflected pass and raced into the end zone for a 40- yard score.

The Eagles had to settle for another field goal on their next possession, as Parkey made a 26-yarder with 11:29 left in the second quarter. McCoy set up the field goal with a 53-yard run.

Tennessee responded with another touchdown to keep it close. Walker's 68-yard catch-and-run moved the ball to the Philadelphia 13. The drive was kept alive when Vinny Curry got a piece of Mettenberger's face mask on third down. Shonn Greene capped the march with a 2-yard TD run.

The Eagles came back with a 10-play, 69-yard drive that McCoy capped with a 2- yard TD run. Riley Cooper caught a 21-yard pass on third down prior to the score, which made it 27-14.

Ryan Succop made a 20-yard field goal on the next Tennessee possession. Parkey missed a 49-yard field goal before the half to snap his successful streak at 17.

The Eagles pulled away early in the second half. Mettenberger's pass was deflected at the line and center Brian Schwenke caught the ball and started running. But Schwenke fumbled and Philadelphia 

The home team capitalized as James Casey caught a 14-yard TD pass.

Parkey kicked field goals of 30, 35 and 50 yards in the fourth quarter. Tennessee's Dexter McCluster had a 6-yard TD catch in the final frame.

Notes: The Eagles snapped a four-game skid against the Titans after having won all six meetings with the franchise when it was located in Houston ... Bishop Sankey carried the ball 10 times for 37 yards for the Titans ... Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho left the game with a groin injury and did not return ... Andrew Gardner started at right guard, the eighth different starting offensive line combination for the Eagles in 11 games this year.

Titans prove to be the tonic for Shady

PHILADELPHIA - "I'm not gonna address that."

That was the surly response from a disgruntled LeSean McCoy to former Eagle and current WIP host Ike Reese's suggestion that the 2013 NFL rushing champ had lost a step.

The uncomfortable exchange came during McCoy's weekly appearance with Reese last Monday and highlighted the frustration Shady has been feeling a year after piling up 1,607 yards on 5.1 yards per carry with nine touchdowns for Philadelphia.

McCoy's reaction, however, shouldn't cloud the fact that the narrative was certainly something Reese should have explored.

While McCoy is only 26 years old, far from the demarcation line of 30 that signals the downside of a running back's production. He did touch the football 391 times last season when you include the playoffs, a workload that would test the mettle of anyone's legs.

Coming into Sunday's game with Tennessee, a 43-24 Philadelphia blowout that lifted McCoy's Eagles to 8-3 on the season, he had rushed for 729 yards and two touchdowns on 196 carries, a paltry 3.7 yards per carry, 38th in the NFL.

McCoy did have a four-game stretch in which he averaged more than 100 yards per game and looked like his old self but he's also failed to record 4.0 yards per carry in six different contests.

He's been so ordinary in fact that the film review-based website Pro Football Focus ranked him 56th of the 61 NFL running backs that have seen significant action this season, a far cry from his All-Pro nod in 2013.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly, meanwhile, has taken away some red-zone snaps in favor of the 5-foot-6, 190-pound Darren Sproles, hardly the traditional goal-line battering ram.

“Listen, I don't care what's out there. I'm not going to address, ‘Am I the same player?' I don't address that. For what?” an annoyed McCoy said on Wednesday before then pumping the brakes and actually addressing it.

“What are we sitting here talking about," McCoy continued. "Am I the same player? That's for ya'all to figure out. You crazy? Am I the same player? I am the same player."

McCoy then exited, stage left.

His response Sunday was less petulant and far more emphatic as the Pitt product hung his hat on production, laying a 130-yard spot on the embattled Titans. He also needed just 21 carries and three quarters to do it, compiling an impressive 6.2 yards per attempt.

Detractors will point to the fact that those same Titans allowed the explosive Le'Veon Bell to rush for 204 yards just six days ago and say McCoy ripped off one big run (a 53-yarder in the second quarter) against one of the game's worst run defenses.

The numbers weren't the important part, though. McCoy's legs looked fresh, and the vaunted cut-back ability was on display as he turned Titans safety Michael Griffin into a top on one third-quarter run.

To be fair to McCoy, he has been running behind an injury-plagued offensive line for much of the season and has been stationed behind a very inconsistent quarterback, be it Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez. Meanwhile, the absence of field-stretcher DeSean Jackson, who now calls the Beltway home, outside the numbers shouldn't be underestimated.

"I've had to earn everything I get this year," McCoy said. "I don't think anything has changed. No matter what the circumstance is or what's going on, I've learned that doesn't matter. All that matters is what you're doing lately."

And "lately" says 130 yards and a score, numbers any back will take.

The next stop for McCoy is consistency and putting together a similar performance in Dallas on the national stage that is Thanksgiving Day might halt all the questions regarding his decline.

Bagnoli goes out a winner as Penn drops Cornell

Ithaca, NY -- In a difficult season, one in which the Quakers found themselves at the bottom of the Ivy League -- an unfamiliar position for the last generation -- at least Al Bagnoli went out a winner.

In his last game for University of Pennsylvania football, his team produced a 34-26 victory over Cornell at Schoellkopf Field on Saturday afternoon.

Senior Spencer Kulcsar had three receiving touchdowns (one shy of the single-game school record), 187 receiving yards (sixth-most in a game at Penn) and added 11 receptions for a total of 83 catches this season (two shy of the school record).

Alek Torgersen threw for 331 yards, and ran for 86 and another score, in addition to his three touchdown tosses to Kulcsar.

Bagnoli concluded his illustrious 33-year coaching career with a 234-99 overall career record and a 148-80 mark in 23 seasons at Penn. He finished with the most wins in school history, the second-most Ivy League wins in Ancient Eight history (111) and an all-time record nine outright Ivy League championships.

Cornell scored on the game's opening possession. A 32-yard touchdown pass was followed by one of the more humorous storylines of the game -- Cornell's extra point attempts. The first of three straight misses was due to a bobbled snap and left the score at 6-0.

Penn got on the board after a 26-yard punt return from Kulcsar set up the Quakers at the Cornell 23. Four plays later, Kulcsar, who finished with 230 all-purpose yards, hauled in a pass from Torgersen and ran in from four yards out to give Penn a 7-6 lead at the 6:13 mark of the first quarter.

Cornell took the lead back on the second play of the second quarter. But the five-yard rush was followed by an extra point that sailed wide left and Penn's deficit was only 12-7.

Penn needed just five plays to go back ahead. A 21-yard pass to Eric Fiore was followed by a 36-yard catch and run from Justin Watson, and then a seven-yard touchdown grab from Kulcsar, who raced to the pylon and put Penn up 14-12.

Cornell went on top again with a 51-yard touchdown pass, but sophomore Donald Panciello blocked the extra point and the Big Red lead was 18-14 with 4:23 left until the half.

Once again, Torgersen and the Penn offense immediately responded. The Quakers went 75 yards in just 2:35. A 21-yard screen pass to sophomore Brian Schoenauer set up the Quakers in the red zone and led to Torgersen's 1-yard touchdown plunge. That late first-half score gave the Quakers a 21-18 lead at the break.

Just three minutes into the second half, Kulcsar found the end zone for a third time -- on the longest play of the season. Torgersen lofted a perfectly-placed pass down the sideline that fell into Kulcsar's arms around the Penn 45. He outmaneuvered and outraced the Big Red defenders from there for a 78-yard touchdown and 28-18 lead.

Penn added to its lead when Schoenauer capped a 94-yard drive with his first career touchdown. The Quakers took over from their own six-yard line when senior captain Evan Jackson batted down a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. The Red and Blue then marched down field and Schoenauer finished off the 14-play possession for a 34-18 advantage with 7:53 to play.

Cornell made it interesting down the stretch with a touchdown and two-point conversion to close to within 34-26 with 4:07 to go. Penn used up most of the clock on the ensuing possession, but the Big Red got the ball back with 35 seconds left. They got to midfield, but a harmless pass floated incomplete as time expired.

Torgersen was 26-of-37 and finished the season with 260 completions (second-most all-time at Penn) and a school record 421 attempts. Watson matched a career-best with six catches for 77 yards and finished his rookie season with multiple receptions in every game, while Schoenauer had a career-high 58 rushing yards and caught a pair of passes for 23 yards. In all, Penn finished with a season-high 492 yards of offense.

Conner Scott caught a pass for the 28th straight game and finished his career with 151 catches (fourth-most all-time at Penn), 1,762 receiving yards (fifth-most all-time at Penn), and 11 touchdown catches (eighth-most all-time at Penn).

On Dec. 1, Ray Priore will officially take on the title as the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football at Penn -- only the 22nd head coach in program history.

Third-period comeback sends Royals past Fuel

by Rob Riches
Phanatic Hockey Writer
Twitter: @Riches61

READING, Pa. -- Despite finding themselves down by three goals, the Reading Royals on Saturday night roared back with four goals in the third period to top the Indy Fuel, 4-3.

Olivier Labelle’s fourth goal of the season with 2:42 to go in the third turned out to be one of his biggest, as it gave the Royals their first lead of the game. Labelle scored on a loose puck in front of the net from Mike Marcou and Adam Hughesman to provide the hosts a memorable game winner.

“It was a very emotional game, and I’m just happy to get the two points,” Labelle said.

The comeback started 4:28 into the final stanza, as Maxim Lamarche scored his first of the season for the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate. Pat Mullane and Adam Comrie then added two power play tallies, with Zach Davies assisting on both. 

Undisciplined, reckless play by the Fuel (3-7-2-1) set up both power-play tallies, as Garrett Bembridge took a minor for boarding and Anders Franzon sat two minutes for shooting the puck over the glass in his defensive zone.

The Fuel’s three-goal lead all came in the second period. First-year Fuel defenseman Kirill Gotovets scored his first two goals of the season, while Justin Holl -- back in the region for the first time since participating in the 2014 NCAA final with Minnesota -- scored his first of the season as well. Robert Czarnik added primary assists on both tallies.

Trailing by a goal with 10:20 on the clock, the Royals looked to inspiration from David Marshall. After former Flyers prospect Garrett Klotz threw a late, blindside hit on captain Bryant Molle, Marshall and Klotz dropped the gloves. The 6-foot-5, 234-pound Klotz had no problem getting his shots in on the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Marshall, but Marshall ultimately wrestled Klotz down.

“I like what Marshall did in the end,” Royals head coach Larry Courville said. “That was a pretty cheap hit by [Klotz]. I though Marshall stepping up went a long way on our bench and in our locker room. It doesn’t matter if you win a fight, it matters that you were there for your teammate.”

Ultimately, a third-period comeback may not have been necessary, had two Royals goals been able to stand. The goals were called back in the first and third periods, after incidental contact with Fuel goalie Cody Reichard. Unlike their partnering NHL, the ECHL doesn’t have the luxury of a centralized “command center” for video review, so the referee’s calls had to stand de facto.

“When we went over our game plan, we had a sheet that says that goalie likes to get involved in the scrums,” Courville said. “He intentionally gets involved in the scrums, looks like he’s getting in position.

“Whether those two goals could stand, I’d have to look at the video.”

The Royals (7-5-1-0) have accumulated points in nine of their past 10 games, and are riding a 4-0-1-0 unbeaten streak. They have a chance to move forward with a quick turnaround, with a second crack at the Fuel again at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.

 Both teams had never met before Saturday, and it subsequently led to a character win for the Royals.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Owls don't measure up vs. Duke

Brooklyn, NY -- As was pointed out in a article earlier in the day, Mike Krzyzewski and Fran Dunphy might have been friends for more than 40 years, but when it comes to results on the court, both men are leagues apart -- literally and figuratively.

Quinn Cook had 17 points and five rebounds to give No. 4 Duke a 74-54 victory over an outclassed Temple squad in the semifinal round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday.

Jahlil Okafor scored 16 points with eight rebounds and Justise Winslow added 15 points for the Blue Devils (4-0), who will take on Stanford in the tournament title on Saturday.

"Temple did a really good job against him (Okafor)," Krzyzewski said.

Will Cummings scored 18 points, Josh Brown gave 11, and Quenton DeCosey gave 10 for the Owls (2-1), who had opened the season with wins over American University and Louisiana Tech.

"It was a little bit of them being as good as they are defensively and a little bit of us losing focus," Temple's Dunphy noted.

Duke led this game pretty much from start to finish as Grayson Allen hit a 3- pointer six minutes in for a 13-4 lead.

Two more 7-0 runs in the half helped stake the Blue Devils to a 36-26 lead after 20 minutes.
A Cook 3-pointer with 10 1/2 minutes to play in the contest gave Duke a 57-35 advantage.

An 8-0 run from Temple, with Cummings netting the final four, cut the deficit to 62-48 with 5 1/2 minutes left, but Cook and Winslow followed with a bucket and two free throws, respectively, to put
the game out of reach.

Notes: Duke has won 11 of the last 12 meetings with Temple and holds a 20-10 lead in the series ... Duke shot just 39.1 percent, but held Temple to 37.3 percent shooting in the contest ... The Blue Devils entered play averaging more than 100 points per contest with a shooting percentage north of 60 percent from the floor ... Temple sophomore Daniel Dingle hit Temple's only three-pointer of the contest with six minutes remaining in the first half, narrowly keeping alive a streak of now 574 consecutive games in which the Owls have hit at least one shot from long range.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Renberg's surprising post-hockey life; Lindros and LeClair return to rave reviews

Thanks to Getty Images
Don't cry for Mikael Renberg, Delaware Valley.

Although he was not formally honored alongside his Legion of Doom-mates Eric Lindros and John LeClair in Thursday night's 14th edition of the Flyers' Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, the 42-year-old Swede who once again resides in his native country was going to be there to aid in the celebration.

"It means a lot. I really had a tough time to come here because I have family and I have school back home and some other things," he said. "But when Eric sent me a mail and wanted me to come, I just couldn't say no then. It brings back a lot of memories."

Renberg, as you recall, was not able to attend the club's activities surrounding the Winter Classic nearly three years ago. At the time, he was contracted by Swedish television station SVT to accompany its talent to the World Junior Championship which took place in Alberta's two largest cities. Thus, thousands who showed up to Citizens Bank Park on December 31 were treated to just two-thirds of the Legion on ice.

And there was the resultant shock when the Flyers announced in the offseason that only the same two-thirds of that famous line was set to join the franchise elite this year.

You don't have to worry about television duties taking the last piece to the Legion's puzzle away from any future reunions or remembrances. It's just one small part of Renberg's plan for the rest of his life. That school he referenced earlier will prepare him for the next stage  -- which includes a career in the health care field.

"I work with Swedish TV. It's just a part-time thing. In two months. I'm going to be a phsyiotherapist.  I've been doing (that) three years in school ... up in Lulea at the technical university. I'm going to move down to Stockholm and start working."
It's not as far fetched as it seems. For a guy who spent just as much time in the infirmary than he did on the ice due to injuries such as a stomach muscle issue that sidelined him for a significant chunk of one season here to a necrotic infection which nearly cost him his right hand in his later years with Toronto, of course Renberg might want to continue his professional life easing the pain of others.

It also gave him a sense of purpose.

"One year when I was done playing, I did nothing -- and I didn't like that," Renberg added. "I didn't know if it was Tuesday or Saturday half the time. So, I decided to get an education."

Lulea is the flagship campus of four scattered throughout the northern portions of Sweden, boasting 16,000 students and offering almost two dozen masters programs. The school is located roughly 35 miles to the north and east of Renberg's hometown of Pitea, both fairly close to the border with Finland.

The discipline isn't just someone in an office with a massage chair, nor is it some hippie-dippie philosophy intent on healing through holistic means. According to the Chartered Society, physiotherapy "is a science-based profession and takes a ‘whole person’ approach to health and well-being, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle. At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment."

Renberg will provide professional assistance for people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. There's also elements of pain management and disease prevention.

*        *        *

Since the fortunes of the Philadelphia Flyers turned once both Eric Lindros and John LeClair were
placed on the same line by Terry Murray back in February of 1995, it was fitting that both men took to the podium at center ice together.

Honoring more than one deserving former player, coach or front office member in any given ceremony is not a novel concept: it was done the first six times from Bernie Parent and Bob Clarke's night in March of 1988 through April of 1993 when Joe Scott and Ed Van Impe took their turns, before being revived last night; but for the first time, both players chose to give their respective speeches at the same time.

When they walked out from the beneath the stands to their place at center ice, it was not surprising that LeClair received the most intense greeting while Lindros received the longest. Brief remarks followed by both, thanking numerous former teammates and people within the organization.

"Johnny Vermont, the 45-year-old resident of the Main Line and one of a mere three players in club annals to score 40 goals on five different occasions and just the second (behind Tim Kerr's four) to register three seasons of at least 50, spoke first. 

"You guys are awesome," LeClair told the packed house of standing faithful. "Win or tie you were always behind us. .You didn't accept losing. Night in and night out, you brought passion to the (Spectrum and) Wells Fargo Center. Here's to the best fans in the NHL."

He called his three children "my greatest hat trick ever," adding to the 12 he recorded with the Orange and Black, and made a specific point to tell his partner in crime that he owed a lot of success in his career to playing on a line with Lindros.  

To me it’s great. Eric has been such a big part of my career and to have him right there next to me with everything is quite immense," LeClair said. "Obviously, with what he’s done to get me to this point, to have him standing next to me is going to be a big thrill.”

“I didn’t know a whole lot about John. Obviously, we played against one another about six times prior to that trade," Lindros had said in a Monday press conference. "Certainly knew that they had a great deal of success in the (Canadiens' 1993) playoff run, which John was a huge part of. Things seemed to click within the first practice things seemed to really roll. We had a great deal of fun, we worked hard, and we really wanted to score in practices as much as we could."  

That camaraderie which was created was evident in the moment.  

Then it was Lindros' turn.  The Flyers' leader in all-time points-per-game and the youngest captain in team history was buttressed by his wife and new sons, and he spoke pointedly of relations present, past and not in attendance.

"To my parents and my family, who sacrificed countless hours helping me every step of the way – without them, it just doesn’t happen.  I now have a new team … we’re a little bit smaller and overall don’t sleep very much, but on behalf of Kina and my son Carl Pierre, a happy boy – love you guys – we’d like to thank you all for this wonderful acknowledgement."

Finally, it was time for the Legion of Doom to be reunited. There was no question this time that Renberg would be present for the ceremony. Having him present both former line mates with their respective busts and to watch as their names were added to the rafters on the list of the honored, left both fans and press box residents swimming in nostalgia and claiming sudden dust storms swirled inside the arena.

It marked the first time since the final shift of Game 4 in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals -- a 2-1 loss in Detroit which finished off the Red Wings' sweep despite Lindros' tally in the final seconds -- that Lindros, LeClair and Renberg shared the ice together.  

"Oh man ... it was great. I texted my Mom and said I wish I was 15 years younger so I could re-do my career, but I can't ... it was great playing here," Renberg said of the warm reception from nearly 20,000 fans.

Favorite Legion Moments

Every site seems to indulge in making posts out of lists, but when we're talking about a night honoring most of what is arguably the second-greatest line in franchise history, it practically begs for a countdown of great moments.

The following are my own top five, which may not have anything to do with the usual highlight-reel stuff, strictly covering the regular season and only the period where the Legion of Doom was intact.

#5. March 19, 1997 -- Flyers 6, Toronto 3 at Maple Leaf Gardens: On this night in the venerable old building, the first-place Flyers trailed the last-place Leafs by a goal early in the third period. Enter Sandman, aka Lindros, who silenced the crowd of his "hometown" team and scored three of his four goals on the night to reverse that trend. Mikael Renberg potted one of his two goals in the furious flurry.

The Legion ended up accumulating 13 points, lost in the haze of their record-setting 16-point effort only weeks prior vs. the Habs in a 9-5 home victory.

#4. April 13, 1997 -- Flyers 5, Devils 4 at CoreStates Center: Having tied in Montreal the night prior and locked into the third seed in the East, the home team seemingly didn't have anything to play for in the season finale. Neither did the Devils, who by virtue of a win one night prior, were champions of the Atlantic Division and started little-used backup Mike Dunham in place of Martin Brodeur.

Philly fell behind 4-1 after two periods but rallied in the third. LeClair scored the tying goal with 4:07 left in regulation for his second straight season of 50 goals, while Trent Klatt potted the winner on the power play with 1:34 to go. Lindros kicked off the four-goal burst on his even-strength marker at 6:43.

#3. April 22, 1995 -- Flyers 4, Devils 3 (OT) at Meadowlands: Two days after clinching their first playoff berth since 1989 with a 2-1 decision over the Islanders, the Orange and Black had a chance to win the Atlantic Division for the first time ever if they beat New Jersey. Lindros' second-period score gave the visitors a 3-1 lead, but the hosts scored twice in the third to tie.

That set up the dramatic winner, from LeClair, who snuck a shot past Brodeur at the right post on a wraparound at 54 seconds of the extra session. Gaining one of the two top seeds in the conference enabled the Flyers to embark upon their memorable playoff run.

#2. February 25, 1995 -- Flyers 7, Canadiens 0 at Montreal Forum: Only 16 days after the three-for-one trade with the Habs saw LeClair along with Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionne shipped to Philadelphia, Terry Murray's club arrived in the city on a Saturday night to finish off a two-game Quebec road trip.

Chastened by a 6-6 tie two nights prior where the visitors wasted leads of 2-0 and 6-3, it took a while for the Flyers to kick the revenge machine into gear. A scoreless game after one turned into a two-goal lead after two thanks to a pair of LeClair tallies against Patrick Roy almost six minutes apart, then LeClair finished off his trifecta with his club's fourth goal only 73 seconds into the third period on assists from Lindros and Renberg.

Kevin Dineen, Desjardins and Patrik Juhlin scored to chase Roy and finish the rout, but the line's dominance and the magnitude of the win against a team less than two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup served notice to North America who got the best of the transaction.

#1. March 19, 1996 -- Flyers 4, Islanders 1 at the Spectrum: It was an ordinary, perfunctory mid-week home victory against a cellar-dwelling opponent, but one in which the Legion of Doom proved that it could be a force not only on the scoreboard, but in the trenches and also when welcoming other players into the fold.

Murray used the tilt to see how many other potential line combinations fared in the wake of moves at the trade deadline, but no matter. In its time together, the Legion combined to accumulate 19 of the club's 41 shots against New York goaltenders Tommy Soderstrom and Eric Fichaud, with Lindros racking up a career-best 14 shots by himself. When Philly's top three players were on the ice, the Islanders simply did not gain possession of the puck, and if an opposing player did manage to find it on his stick, he was treated like a pinball meeting flippers.

The cycle game, the possession game and passing game were in complete control on this night, and an abundance of points weren't necessary to underline that largesse.

Playoff special: If I had to offer up one singular favorite memory of the impact the Legion of Doom had on Flyers hockey in the 90s, it would be the following.

Memorial Day weekend, 1997. Flyers and Rangers engaged in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden, I was engaged in partying down the Jersey shore and shuttling between houses in Margate and Avalon rented by high school friends.

The property in Margate was a back-entrance attic apartment with no TV, so I was stuck peering in a neighbor's window to take score checks back to everybody gathered. Later in the evening, I decided to head for the more spacious digs on the Seven Mile island and listened to the radio call while en route.

I had only reached the tolls at the end of the old Somers Point-Ocean City bridge, and typical for that time of night on a holiday weekend, there was a line stretching back a quarter mile. The game, a 2-2 tie, was winding down when Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom turned his stick into LeClair's face, giving the Flyers a four-minute power play to exploit.

I was five cars from the booth when Lindros shocked the world with his backhander in the game's final seven seconds which won the game and gave Philly a 3-1 series lead. When the goal was scored, along with John Weidemann's impassioned words emanating from the stereo and drifting out each window, every car in line honked their horn and people both behind and in front of me were yelling out the window in celebration. It was an unexpected, beautiful communal moment.