By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—The shots and the pressure were bound to throw the Flyers into a quandary. They were able to escape the lapses in play and concentration in the first period of Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils, but on Tuesday, the Flyers weren’t able to squirm free this time.
This time, the Devils rendered the Flyers invisible. This time, everything that worked in the first game for the Flyers fell into reverse in Game 2.
David Clarkson’s goal with 8:43 left to play proved to be the winning difference as the Devils exploded for four third-period goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the Flyers in Game 2 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Devils now take home-ice advantage and evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1 going back to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for Game 3.
The Devils dominated much of the game, including the second period, when the Flyers went into an offensive funk. The Devils’ forechecking, coupled with the Flyers’ poor decision-making in getting the puck out of their own zone, created a lull for Philadelphia. The deadzone also happened in Game 1, when the Devils dominated the first 10 minutes and outshot the Flyers 11-0.
This drought was more prolonged. The Flyers, however, staved off the New Jersey rushes thanks to Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. He was brilliant early on, making a number of big saves in the first and second periods. Though it seemed a matter of time before the Devils would snap the tenuous grip the Flyers had.
“We played the right way tonight,” said Devils’ star Zach Parise, who had an assist. “We put the puck in the right spots to forecheck and we made it tougher for them to break out. We didn’t do that in the first game against them and that’s what we need to do to win games. The Flyers have such good offensive players you have to be aware of everything around you. But if you pin them and trap them, and try and frustrate them, you can stop them. That’s what we did tonight.”
New Jersey’s Adam Larsson tied the score at 1-1 with 16:52 left to play. About eight minutes later, Clarkson added what resulted in the game-winning goal, and Travis Zajac supplied an insurance goal with 5:59 remaining in the game. Bryce Salvador capped it off with a Devils’ short-handed goal—his first playoff goal—with 2:51 left.
By then, empty seats dotted the Wells Fargo Center.
Until then, it was Bryzgalov that singlehandedly help up a 1-0 lead on a first-period Matt Read goal. Who’s to say what switches, hinges, levers and bolts toss, turn and slide inside Bryzgalov’s head. Sometimes listening to Bryzgalov speak, it seems he doesn’t even know. But inside that spacey-ness, aside from those wild sideways glances and references to bears in the woods lurks a pretty decent goaltender that could be brilliant at times.
Flyers’ fans saw a glimpse of just how good “Bryz” is in March, when he went one stretch establishing a Flyers’ franchise record by going 249 minutes and 43 seconds without giving up a goal.
So far in these playoffs, Bryzgalov has been pedestrian—at best. He has made the rare spectacular save, though it’s been the Flyers’ explosive offense that has carried them. At times this season, Bryzgalov has been the target of the fan’s scorn. He received the brunt of it in Game 4 of the Flyers’ opening-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins when he surrendered five goals on 18 shots.
On Tuesday night, those same fans loved him, chanting. “Bryz, Bryz, Bryz, Bryz.” Fans had no other choice, since it was Bryzgalov that kept the Flyers in the game, especially in the second period, when the Devils outshot the Flyers 12-0 for almost the entire period.
“We didn’t give them the respect that we needed to,” Read said. “New Jersey did a great job keeping us off the passing lanes and they really took it to us the last 40 minutes. It could have been much worse if not for Bryz. This is very disappointing. We came out and we didn’t do a lot of the little things.”
With 1:26 left in the second, the Flyers’ Claude Giroux finally got a shot on net. But it felt like an 18-minute, 34-second Devils’ powerplay, since much of that span came at even strength. New Jersey swarmed in the Flyers’ zone the entire time, pressuring Bryzgalov as the Flyers’ perplexed defense swirled around clueless. And the mantra began again “Bryz, Bryz, Bryz, Bryz!”
But as the Flyers left the ice in the second, they were greeted by a lusty chorus of boos—then received, no doubt, a good blistering by Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette during the second intermission.
More New Jersey stress unfolded and eventually produced the Devils’ four-goal third period. With little or no support, there was only so much Bryzgalov could do.
CBS Sports Blog: Giants’ Best Acquisition Not Beltran, But KeppingerBy Michelle Dingley
Remember the backlash when Carlos Beltran was selected to the All-Star team? People thought his best days were behind him and he didn’t deserve the honor.
Remember when, a week or two later, Beltran was suddenly the most desired player as the trade deadline approached? Playoff contenders, such as the Phillies, Braves and Giants, wanted him to improve their offensive production.
Remember when the Giants acquired Beltran? He was supposed to save our struggling offense, take some of the pressure off the Panda and Huff, and make the whole lineup better.
Remind me, how’s all that working out?
Oh yeah, I remember. When Beltran joined the Giants on July 28, the team was in first place with a record of 61-44. That’s 17 games over .500. Entering the game on August 30, the Giants have fallen to 71-64 (7 games over .500), and they are 5 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. In their last 30 games, the Giants have gone 10-20. Our offense, which had been bad all year, has recently been atrocious, terrible, and pathetic.
We can’t blame all our offensive failures on Carlos Beltran. Nonetheless, the supposed savior has done little to nothing for the team. It doesn’t help that he missed over two weeks with a wrist injury, though that’s par for the course for the Orange and Black this season. Still, Brian Sabean traded Zack Wheeler, our top pitching prospect, for this guy who’s supposed to provide some power and occasionally pop one out of the park. Here is what Beltran has done this year with the bat.
With Mets (98 games): .289, .391 OBP, 66 RBI, 15 hr, 61 K, 60 BB, .340 RISP
With Giants (18 games): .286, .306 OBP, 4 RBI, 1 hr, 16 K, 2 BB, .176 RISP
Most striking is the home run total. It looks like a huge drop-off, but if he hit the longball at the same rate as he did with New York, Beltran would only have 3. His walks are way down, which is a problem, as we definitely need baserunners any way we can get them. His average hasn’t dropped off that dramatically. If you have watched every Giants game Beltran has played in, that might surprise you. How is the rally killer hitting in the .280s? The discrepancy between his apparent lack of production versus his actual batting average lies in the quality and usefulness of those hits. Beltran has two triples with San Francisco, both with the bases empty. His one big fly was a solo shot. With the Mets, Beltran hit .268 with the bases empty, and .340 with runners in scoring position. With the Giants, he’s hitting .314 with no runners on, and a paltry .176 with RISP. Even though Beltran is collecting hits, he has been almost completely useless at the plate. Beltran has grounded into 6 double plays with the Giants. In almost 5 ½ times more games with the Mets, he had grounded into just 9 double plays.
We acquired Orlando Cabrera on July 31, just before the trade deadline. The former Indian was not exactly obtained for his bat, and that’s a good thing, because he has also helped very little offensively. Here are his stats for the season.
With Indians (91 games): .244, .277 OBP, 38 RBI, 4 hr, 40 K, 13 BB, 6 E, .985 fielding %
With Giants (26 games): .227, .245 OBP, 11 RBI, 0 hr, 12 K, 3 BB, 4 E, .966 fielding %
Just take a glance at those numbers, and it’s obvious that Cabrera is also subject to what I’ve heard described as “Giantsitis” – the inability to hit once donning the orange and black uniform. Still, Cabrera was not expected to be a power hitter, just a right-handed shortstop. He was acquired when Miguel Tejada was on the DL and our only shortstops were Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot, both lefties who weren’t swinging the bat very well. Cabrera was thought of as a slight defensive upgrade over Tejada. A former Gold Glove-winning shortstop, he was playing almost exclusively at second base for the Indians. As demonstrated above, his fielding is not quite where we would like it. It’s not just the 4 errors in 26 games; it’s the plays that weren’t ruled errors but that a more sure-handed shortstop – Crawford, for example – probably would have made. On August 28, for instance, there was a ball hit sharply that Cabrera missed, dribbling into center field for a hit. The tying run scored later that inning, and the Giants fell in extra innings. Cabrera has also not put down good tags on throws both from the outfield and from the catcher, allowing runners to safely reach second base. The way we have been hitting, we cannot afford to give away extra outs. If Cabrera isn’t contributing with the bat and is not quite as advertised with the glove, we need someone else to play short. It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to miss Tejada. Luckily, Crawford should be back on Friday.
One bright spot in the lineup is the addition of Jeff Keppinger. Debuting with the Giants on July 20, Keppinger has done a nice job filling in for Freddy Sanchez, who is out for the season. Since he is now a Giant, Keppinger spent the requisite time injured. He hurt his wrist in a collision at first base on August 15, but he was back in the starting lineup on the 20th. He is hardly a power hitter, but he can consistently put the bat on the ball, which is more than most Giants can say.
With Astros (43 games): .307, .320 OBP, 20 RBI, 4 HR, 7 K, 4 BB, 3 E, .982 fielding %
With Giants (34 games): .273, .304 OBP, 6 RBI, 1 HR, 10 K, 4 BB, 2 E, .986 fielding %
Like the other acquisitions, his production has dropped off a bit upon joining the Giants. Unlike the other two men, he has actually been helpful at the plate. Keppinger is one of the hardest guys in the majors to strike out, though he doesn’t walk much. He can sacrifice a runner over, and you can count on him in a hit-and-run. He has won at least three games for us nearly single-handedly, which is three more than Beltran. On August 13, Keppinger hit a solo homer in the first, and the Giants never looked back. He also made a great play in the 5th to prevent the Marlins from scoring. If he hadn’t snagged the ball, it would have been a 2-1 game with a runner on second. Instead, the Giants won with a final of 3-0. On August 26, against his former team, Keppinger hit a two-run double, plating the only runs the Giants got for the night. They beat Houston 2-1. The next day, he got the game-winning hit against the Astros, scoring DeRosa from second in the bottom of the 10th. In addition to his consistency at the plate, Keppinger is more than capable at second base. The nail-biting that ensues when a ball is hit at Cabrera does not occur when Keppinger fields a ball. The way the Giants have been playing, both offensively and defensively, Keppinger might be the best player on our team right now.
It seems that, once again, the Giants’ best acquisition is the player most people hadn’t heard of. Carlos Beltran has not been the power bat that we needed. Orlando Cabrera has not been a big improvement over our other shortstop options. The “incremental” improvement of Jeff Keppinger at second base was the best trade we have made this year.