Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Flyers: Looking for something 'special'

The Flyers may be the best five-on-five team in the NHL. But if they are on the power-play or short-handed, they are suffering.

In other words, the special teams have been terrible. Sounds like the Eagles, huh?

Inquirer beat reporter Tim Panaccio says in today's story, on the 3-2 loss to Toronto, that the Flyers have only one goal in 19 power-play chances. On the penalty kill, they have given up five goals in 19 chances.

And that is why they are 1-2 after the first three games.

"We've given up five power-play goals in three games, which is far too many," Flyer coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I really feel that killing a penalty is a sense of desperation. And it's the group that has the biggest sense of desperation that wins the game. It's the game within the game, and we're losing it."

That's what Hitch had to say. What about you?

A quick skate through the Flyers Forum on came up with these:

From radoran:
We fans of the Philadelphia Flyers do not have a hockey "team" yet, we have a group of highly talented players who have played a grand total of three games together.

The Flyers have replaced four of their top five scorers and the fifth is playing most shifts out of position.

In losing some of their top scorers, they have also lost important parts of the "leadership group" which has steered this franchise for the past three years.

This is a new Flyers team. This is a new group of players who need time to develop which each other and play. They have new leaders. But I bet Hitch "knows where this locker room is." They all need each other. They will develop - together.

Esche is a goalie who benefitted from a system developed by one of the top coaching minds of the past decade, in its second year of development with roughly the same set of players. Esche hasn't played in a year. He needs time - as do we all - to adapt to a "new NHL". The players need time to develop Hitch's system. In some ways, Hitch is redeveloping his system for the "new NHL".

Unfortunately the Flyers' preseason will really be the first five games of the regular season. From where I sit, they open their season again in Toronto on October 22nd.

I do not mean to say that they will wipe the floor with the Leafs on that date. I mean to say we need to judge "progress" against the standard set tonight.

I don't expect miracles. We don't need miracles in October.

What the Flyers need is to become a team. And if that happens by February, this squad coming out of the Olympics could be exactly what we, as fans, expected it to be in an NHL2006 world.

Hockey is the ultimate team sport - individuals don't win games. Look at the Penguins.

But this Flyers team has the potential be one of the "ultimate" teams. It will not happen overnight. It never does.

But it can.

From Slade1955:
Same garbage year after year with the Flyers. No powerplay. Can't hit the broadside of a barn with the puck. Flyers shoot puck its goes right,it goes left it goes over the net,it goes into the stands,etc. Same plays different characters. Esche stinks!!! 9 goals in two games. Try playing like the Senators are Flyers and maybe you'll learn something!!!!!!!!!!!!

Typical Flyers loss again. The flyers out play, out shoot, and out chance the opposition and they lose. I had this conversation with my brother and we both agreed that we make other teams goalies look like allstars all the time. and every time the other team has a good look at the goal i cringe because i think they're going to score. I hope Hatcher makes a difference when he comes back and can't wait until Sami is back. We have lots of youth and energy, but lack some experience with these youngsters. I think Nittymaki will be #1 soon.

Good News, Really Bad News

What a week! While the results on the field haven't been very good, the news coming from Philadelphia sports has been non-stop. That is what makes Philly such a great sports town. There is always something going on.

The highlight was obviously the firing of Phillies general Ed Wade. My blogging comrade, Dan Rubin, did a nice job cruising the blogosphere and putting together your thoughts. You can check that out at Blinq and scroll down to At Last.

Most of you have taken the Wade firing as good news. So, the really bad news was the Eagles performance in a 33-10 loss at Dallas. Those hated Cowboys. Here is what some of you had to say about that debacle:

From Scrapple:

Game 5 thoughts
what a stinker the birds put up today -- i found it literally painful to watch. this was worse than the thumping the steelers laid on them last season.

- no one on the eagles had a particularly good game, while lots of guys on the cowboys had great games. the cowboys out played, out hustled, out coached, and especially out "physicalled" the eagles in all phases of the game. it was sad to watch and completely unacceptable.

- lack of pass rush continues to be a concern. could the under the radar addition of marco rivera be the most important offseason addition to the cowboys? the birds have been getting most of their defensive line pressure up the middle this season, but in today's game, rivera and larry allen did an terrific job of controlling the middle of the line. with patterson, truck driver, and hollis unable to get a push in the middle, the cowboys offense was able to do whatever it wanted the whole game. early in the game, i think mike patterson was surprised by larry allen's strength. he seemed almost shocked at how allen was pushing him back once larry got his hands on him. i don't think the birds even hit bledsoe on blitzes.

- special teams is going to be a big problem for this team if they don't get better soon. they have had a advantage over almost every other team on special teams over the years (i read somewhere that they're the only team to finish in the top 10 in special teams every year for the last 5 years), but that advantage is gone now. the last time the eagles had kick coverage this bad was when danny smith was the special teams coach.

- why do the birds have such a poor record in games leading into the bye week? they've dipped back under .500 (3-4) in games leading into the bye under reid. seems strange compared to his overall winning percentage (.663 after today's loss). is that a pattern or a variance due to small sample size?

- why the hell was mcnabb still in the game with 5 minutes left in the game? i really wish i had some insight into andy's reasoning. that was definitely a "fat f*ck" moment.

- the birds' inability and/or lack of desire to run kills them in games like this because a) there is no backup plan if the passing gameplan isn't working and b) the drives are too short if they aren't moving the ball so the defense never gets a chance to rest. one of the tv guys mentioned that the eagles were among the league leaders in 3 and outs. that's not a good sign.

- o-line didn't play any worse than any other unit, but tra got absolutely pancaked by eric ogbogu -- who incidentally is the underarmour "we must protect this house" guy.

- i think mcnabb has to have his surgery done now. against teams with little pass rush, don does fine. against teams with a pass rush, he just cannot function back there. why take the risk of him getting creamed? he doesn't have his quickness and he can't avoid these guys coming free. let him get it fixed and come back in time for the last 4 games.

- TO loafed through most of this game.

- kearse was invisible again (and they stopped chipping him once they figured out that a rookie could handle jevon one on one).

- shawn andrews looks much heavier than he was at the start of last season. he doesn't look very mobile right now.

- bottom line, they played like ass and they better come up with better efforts than this if they want to win the division. the other teams have caught up to them in terms of talent, so it's going to be a dogfight the rest of the way. they had better be ready.

this is going to be a miserable two weeks.

From Philly Sports Net:

Eagles Get Toasted by Dallas 33-10
More later, but yesterday’s game was an embarassment. It started off with terrible special teams (repeat: terrible special teams) and continued with a defense that couldn’t stop the pass and an offense that couldn’t get a first down and a coaches who couldn’t gameplan.

When will Andy Reid and the coaches wake up…something is wrong with special teams. Field position matters. Reno Mahe should not be tackling people on special teams. Special team sucks. The offense needs to be ready in the first quarter. Special teams is awful. The defense needs to get pressure on the QB. The offense needs to run the ball. Special teams sucks. Coaches need to gameplan.

This one, along with the photo of Jevon Kearse on a milk carton came from The 700 Level:

Eagles @ Dallas
I think the Eagles take this game despite all of the trends going against them. Dallas has improved greatly over the past few seasons but Donovan and company are clicking lately. I'm not as worried about this game as some. Hopefully we will get to see T.O. disrespect the Dallas star en route to a big win going into the bye week.

Eagles 31 Dallas 17

What I really meant to say was that Drew Bledsoe will look like the second coming of Joe Montana and Donovan McNabb will look like Donovan McNabb when he can't complete a pass to a wide open receiver.

Dallas 96 Eagles 3

And, finally, For The Birds brings up the point that many of us did: Why was an injured Donovan McNabb playing in the fourth quarter?:

Disaster in Dallas
I’m writing this with 3 minutes left in the game, but I can’t believe I just watched Donovan McNabb in on the previous series. It’s not even a question of whether or not his sports hernia can get any worse, but why are you exposing him to any other injury when you’re down by 23 points. I look forward to the post-game press conference for Andy Reid to mumble something unilluminating about it.

Frankly, I expected last week’s game, when they fell behind 17-0, to be the one that would have resembled the Pittsburgh debacle last year, but I was wrong by one week. There will be a bit of panic and a lot of hand-wringing, especially since this loss comes before a bye, which will give fans two weeks to carry this bad feeling around in their bellies. But this was a turkey in every aspect of the game for the Eagles, and you really can’t believe they’ll play another complete stinker like this.

(Ok, now I’m watching with 2 minutes left and Koy Detmer is completing a pass to Terrell Owens. Why is Owens still in the game?!?!? Does Reid have zero concern for keeping his important players healthy???)

What you should be concerned about, however, is, first, the defense’s inability to get a pass rush from its front four. If you want to say that Jevon Kearse is getting double-teamed on every play, which is why he only has one sack in five games, then why has N.D. Kalu shown nothing in getting block by just one guy. There’s some hope of getting Jerome McDougle back on the field soon, but he hasn’t exactly shown much in his Eagles career, and that’s before he was recovering from gunshot wounds. Of course, the Dallas O-line played extremely well today, but this has been a consistent problem all season. Lito Sheppard played a terrible game in particular, but you hope this was more an aberration, even if Sheldon Brown really is the better of the starting cornerbacks.

On the other side of the ball, you should also be concerned not only about the inconsistency of the offense’s pass protection, but also the fact that Reid doesn’t seem especially concerned about helping his injured QB with maximum protection. You can see how McNabb’s performance suffers after either getting hit a couple of times or being forced to run and open up the area where his sports hernia is. Always related to this problem is the fact that Reid refuses to run with any kind of regularity to keep the opposing D-line guessing instead of pinning back their ears and rushing on every down.

Finally, the coverage units on special teams are really struggling. Usually by this point in the season, John Harbaugh has figured out how to integrate his new players into the special teams units, but this has not been the case in 2005. Going into the game, I believe the Eagles had given their opponents the best starting field position in the league, and they unfortunately improved that figure today. It’s one of the key reasons the team has started out of the gates so poorly this year: Giving the opposition a short field leads to easy points.

At this point, there’s no reason not to think that the Eagles will come out of the bye with a strong performance at home against the Chargers. They clearly rebounded from the Steelers’ loss last year pretty well. This clearly was Dallas’ day. But another couple of games with the same problems rearing their heads in such an ugly fashion–then it’ll be time for a little panic.