The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published February 22, 2024
The Flyers got back in the win column on Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory over the corpse of the Chicago Blackhawks, who are speeding toward another first overall pick. But the Flyers are having quite a year, as they are sitting in what appears to be a comfortable playoff spot with just 25 games to go. A good performance this weekend could do wonders to cement that status, just as a bad showing might send everyone into a tizzy yet again.
Let’s have a look.
First Chance to Prove It: Saturday afternoon, home vs the Rangers.
The Flyers were actually right on the Rangers’ heels a few weeks ago, but the Flyers’ swoon just before the all-star break put an end to that. Still, while the Flyers aren’t going to catch the Rangers in the standings down the stretch this year, a victory over their New York nemeses would do wonders for this team’s confidence, as well as for the fans. As I wrote earlier this season, the Flyers really should use the Rangers as a gauge for whether or not they’re ready for prime time in the here and now. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so great for the Flyers in the clubs’ first meeting this year, as the heavily hyped Black Friday matinee was a flat 3-1 loss for the Flyers. They fell behind early, and that was that. Saturday is a chance for redemption for the Orange and Black, though.
The Rangers have mopped the floor with the Flyers of late, winning 8 of the last 9 meetings. And they’ve also won five straight games in Philadelphia. It’s time for this to end. To make this 2023-24 campaign a real turnaround, the Flyers have to start consistently skating with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They keep failing against clubs like the Bruins, and that will need to be addressed if we are going to get serious. But this match with the Rangers is a chance for them to make a statement as we enter the final six weeks of the NHL season. The Flyers have a pretty good list of wins against top Western teams this year: 2-0 AND 4-1 over Vancouver, 4-3 in OT over Vegas, 5-2 over Colorado, 2-0 over Winnipeg, 5-1 over Dallas. But the Rangers are an immediate obstacle, and a big effort here would mean more than all of the W’s against the West.
Second Chance to Prove It: Sunday afternoon at the Penguins
The Penguins are hanging by a thread. With just weeks to go before the trade deadline, they are teetering right at the precipice, just waiting to be nudged into ‘seller’ mode when it comes to Jake Guentzel and others. Wouldn’t it be sweet if the Flyers could drive the final nail into their coffins? It won’t be easy, since the Penguins will have last played on Thursday night and will be laying in wait at home for the Flyers, who have to scoot across the Keystone State for the back-to-back. But maybe that’ll work to the Flyers’ advantage. Who knows?
Over two months ago, the Flyers took both ends of a home-and-home with the Pens, although both games went to extra time. This time, a win in regulation for the Flyers would be absolutely crushing for Pittsburgh and might be the final blow that gets them to wave the white flag on their season. The NHL season is a slow grind, and it’s often about outlasting teams. By ensuring that their hated rival won’t even be sniffing the playoffs, the Flyers can take a big step here. Teams get picked off one by one, and this in particular would be fantastic.
It’s all in front of the Flyers this weekend, with two big games on tap. Come Monday morning, things can look absolutely great, feel like a mess once again, or be somewhere in between. They have to bring it in these two divisional games.
The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances in the 'Burgh on Sunday. (Gene J. Pusker/AP)
I used to be at Section215.com before the site closed. Here are some of my top articles...
"Yeti" image copyright FanSided.com
Published February 7, 2024
All credit to the good folks at Toyota, who make a quality product (my 1995 Corolla is probably still out there chugging along, years after I traded it in) and have partnered with local sports networks over the years to present the Toyota Turning Point®. For a long time, this has been a part of team broadcasts, so much so that I can’t even identify if it’s still an active sponsorship or just is so burned into my brain that it seems that way. (They do have the dumb ‘Rav 4 minutes to play’ during Flyers games, though.)
At any rate, I became so acculturated to it that I like to identify the Toyota Turning Point® on my own in various games and even entire seasons. Heck, if you ask me, I can even point to it after my own floor hockey games or pretty much any event that passes. All the while, I instinctively put the Toyota moniker in there, because that’s just good branding.
I bring all this up because I figured we would check in with the Philly sports teams and identify some current Toyota Turning Points®.
For the 76ers, the glaring example is the Joel Embiid injury. If he doesn’t come back at all this year, or if he comes back in a diminished capacity, this team is not winning a title. They might not even achieve their typical second round flameout. And it has the potential to be a Toyota Turning Point® for the franchise as whole if he can’t eventually get back to his dominant self. I’ve seen this movie before, and it usually doesn’t end well.
Going back to the 2023 Phillies season, the Toyota Turning Point® to propel the team was most likely the Trea Turner standing ovation that got all kinds of attention and seemed to coincide with the club coming alive. Then, of course, it all came crashing down in the NLCS. There was probably a Toyota Turning Point® in there, but I’ve honestly wiped the last five games of that series from my brain entirely. Does not compute.
For the current Flyers, their gutty win on Tuesday night in Florida was badly needed, as it stopped a 5-game losing skid which went back almost three weeks thanks to a lengthy layoff for their bye week and the all-star break. It remains to be seen if they can round back into shape, or if the victory was a mere bright spot in a bad run that will doom their season. If that’s the case, you can point squarely at the ‘Carter Hart stuff’ as their Toyota Turning Point®, since it was the kind of thing that can absolutely demoralize a tight-knit locker room like they seem to have. On the ice, Hart’s final game (probably ever) a few weeks ago against Colorado ended up kicking off their losing streak. Maybe it was just coincidental how poorly he played mere days before leaving the team, but feel free to speculate on that one.
For the Eagles, I’m going to blame their security chief Big Dom ItalianLastName for the team falling off a cliff. Is this ridiculous? Yes. But let’s look at his sideline incident in the December 3rd loss to the 49ers as a clear dividing line here. The Eagles were likely on their way to losing that game anyway, as they were down 21-6 and not looking great. But this was a team that came in at 10-1 and was looking to take a stranglehold on the NFC. Following the Big Dom/Dre Greenlaw confrontation, the Eagles proceeded to go 1-6 (including the result of the SF game and their playoff loss), and were outscored 193-126. The Big Dom ejection was clearly the Toyota Turning Point® of this season for the Birds. Am I saying that their security czar was somehow responsible for their stunning collapse? I’m not saying it, and I’m not not saying it.
I may devote some future space to other notable Toyota Turning Points® in Philly sports history, but I figured that we’d just start with current situations.
So, does all this mean that a Toyota Turning Point® in any given season has to be the exact instance where a team’s season plunged toward ultimate failure instead of a championship, where fate stepped in and dictated “this isn’t your year” even when there were probably still games left to play? Eh, maybe. That’s pretty bleak as a sports fan, to only focus on something negative as a pivotal moment. After all, your odds to win it all in a given year are something like 2-3%, depending on the size of the league, if everyone has a theoretically equal shot. Yes, sports are overwhelmingly ridden with failure, so why not try to remember positives instead of critical negative moments? The bad stuff sticks with us, though. I guess that’s just the way a typical sports brain works, or maybe it’s specific to Philadelphia, to try and rationalize and point to an exact spot where us informed fans knew that it was over for our team.
Sports are so fun.
This had the potential to be memorable in a fun way, but it wasn’t. Poor Big Dom. (Mitchell Leff/Get
Published January 19, 2024
No, I don’t do much for this site anymore, but that’s because I’ve been busy writing Phillies pieces on ThatBallsOuttaHere.com, Flyers pieces on BroadStreetBuzz.com, and even contributed some longer articles last year to a Phillies substack. Plus, I work and have kids and other stuff going on, so you know how it is.
But even when this site is seemingly dormant, I’m always mulling things over when it comes to Philadelphia sports. We’re only a few weeks into 2024, so maybe we still have time to look at the rest of this calendar year and see what’s on the horizon for our beloved clubs. Obviously, a lot has happened already, with the Eagles suffering the most predictable playoff fate in sports history, the Flyers absolutely sizzling, and the Sixers winning some of their games and losing others. At least, I assume that’s what they’re doing; you are probably aware that I don’t follow basketball all that much. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to have a pretty quiet offseason, outside of re-signing Aaron Nola to a mega-deal months ago.
Let’s talk about the Birds first to get them out of the way.
This team looked so primed to be a juggernaut, but now it pretty much seems like the sky is falling. It seems incomprehensible for a team to come so close to a title, fall off the cliff the way that they did, and then recover with the same group of players and/or coaches. This core is getting blown up, whether it’s through a combination of Jason Kelce retiring (maybe?), AJ Brown complaining his way out of town, Jalen Hurts being exposed, or any number of other factors. In the 2022 season, everything went right, they stayed healthy, and they were one lousy call away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. You saw the cracks in 2023 when any kind of adversity struck. I am not optimistic for 2024. This looks like a 7- or 8-win team unless something unforeseen happens. I hope I’m wrong.
The Fly Guys. Wow. They’re playing solid hockey, the goaltending and defense is good, and they’re scoring insane goals. Where did this come from? Before the year, I saw some merit in the ‘tank brigade’ mode of thinking. Be bad, get those high picks, and let’s build for a few more years. But you can’t take a season like this for granted. I see legitimate playoff excitement in our future this spring at the Wells Fargo Center, and room for growth beyond that. Did this screw up the “rebuild”? I’m not sure, but it’s nice when your team comes out and wins games, especially when it’s the kind of demolishing like they delivered on Dallas on Thursday. If you’re going to complain about that, stop being a fan.
The Sixers. Hey, they’re — (looking it up) — 26-13. That’s pretty good. On pace for 50+ wins. Embiid looks great, so I hear. I’m just going to assume that they’ll lose in six games in the second round until I see otherwise, though.
And the Phillies. The Eagles sure let them off the hook, eh? This is still a good team, though, and they should win 90+ games and will likely land in a wild card spot once again. What matters is just staying healthy and getting to the playoffs, and then anything can happen. I think they merit the normal amount of excitement for this upcoming season. Let’s hope they make a few roster moves to shore things up and bring some bedlam back to the Bank in the fall.
While I’ll keep up my Flyers and Phillies work on the other sites I write for, my very late New Year’s Resolution is that I will make a more dedicated effort to put new material right here with far more regularity in 2024 than I have over the last couple years. And that’s more of a guarantee than any of the local clubs can give you in 2024.
We're all wondering if we'll see this dude on the field ever again. (Phelan Ebenhack/AP)
A journey through the last quarter-century of Philadelphia sports, as seen through the lens of a true fan. The book includes an exclusive list of the 50 Most Disliked Philadelphia Athletes. A must-read for all of Philly's long-suffering fans, especially those who "grew up" during the 1990's and early 2000's.
Kevin Lagowski lives in Lincoln University, PA with his wife, two sons, and dog. He used to work in the TV control room world, but now he's a technical writer/program analyst.