Monday, April 20, 2009

A Walk-Off, a Phenom and an Upset

Let's face it, the weekend was going pretty much as poorly as it could have been heading into yesterday. The Flyers gave away game 2 on Friday, blowing a 2-1 lead to lose in overtime, thanks in large part to Jeff Carter, who choked away the game by failing to bury a chance on a wide open net late in the third, which would have put the Flyers up 3-1, and then taking a penalty with about 4 minutes left on Jordan Staal—with the Penguins tying the game and forcing overtime on the ensuing power play.

It was not Carter's finest moment for sure, and I was infuriated with him. To make matters worse, the Phillies blew a 7-1 lead, losing 8-7, thanks to Cole Hamels surrendering the deep ball and Ryan Madson reverting back to the real Ryan Madson. Then the Phils followed it up with another Mets-like performance, with the bullpen failing to hang on and Brad Lidge suffering his first blown save in a Phillies uniform.

That sucked. Needless to say, hopes weren't all that high for yesterday's incredible Philadelphia triple-header. And things didn't look to be going any better when the Phillies fell behind 4-0, again, to the Padres. Thankfully, Chase Utley gave us a reason to cheer with his 2-run bomb to make 4-2, but I missed it and most of the Phils game to focus on the Flyers.

You all saw that game, so I don't want to rehash the whole thing, but man, where was that Flyers team the first two games? Yesterday, they played as good as you could have hoped and showed tremendous poise, coming right back after blowing an early 2-0 lead to recapture it and the game. Everyone on the ice wearing orange played with passion, and the entire team threw bone-crushing checks—even Jeff Carter hit a couple guys.

And Claude Giroux, Claude fucking Giroux. By now, it's no secret, Claude Giroux is my favorite Philadelphia Flyer. I love the guy. I really do. Can you remember the last time a Philadelphia rookie made you say, "Wow!" more than Giroux? He's just insane.

Minutes after the Penguins tied the game at 2, Danny Briere made a brilliant pass to Giroux, who scored his first NHL playoff goal to break the tie. A few minutes later, he made one of the most remarkable plays I've ever seen, busting his ass shorthanded down the ice to force Sergei Gonchar. Where most players would just tap on a player of Gonchar's skill and skate back, Giroux—a rookie, mind you—did much, much more than that, lifting the stick of Gonchar, stealing the puck, wheeling around the net, reversing, wheeling back around the other side and then laying a perfect pass to Simon Gagne, who buried the shorthanded goal to put the Flyers up 4-2. It was ridiculous.

I'm in complete awe of Claude Giroux. Call it a man crush. Call it what you like. Claude Giroux is by far my favorite player in hockey. His amazing play got the Flyers back on track, and a goal by fellow rookie Jared Ross and an empty-netter by Gagne has this thing back to 2-1. If the Flyers can bring that type of intensity to game 4, we may just have ourselves a series.

In the meantime, the Phils had mounted another comeback with a pinch-hit home run by Jimmy Rollins to make it 4-3, and during intermission of the Flyers game, the Phils were up in the bottom of the 9th. Ryan Howard fought off a tough pitch to loop a single, and up came Raul Ibanez. Ibanez, my steal of my fantasy baseball draft so far this season, has been tearing things up, and I told my dad, "He wants to hit a walk-off here." Sure enough, after working a 2-0 count, Raul sat on his pitch, got it, and BAM, walk-off city.

Very nice. After a great start to the day—a Phillies win and a Flyers win—I was all set to watch the Sixers get trounced by Orlando. Dwight Howard was a beast in the first half, but the Magic couldn't hit from beyond the arc and the Sixers were only down four.

Now, I'm not sure if any of you caught the halftime show, but it was the most ridiculous thing ever. Honestly, it was just Chris Webber and Kenny Smith yelling at each other, talking gibberish and not making a damn bit of sense. Usually I think TNT is awesome at NBA coverage and Kenny, EJ, Charles and Webber do a good job, but that was insanely stupid, childish and horrible. Completely unprofessional job by Webber, although he did seem to be defending the Sixers much more than anyone else.

Update: The Webber-Kenny video:

Then the Sixers came out and got routed in the 3rd quarter, falling behind by 18, and I almost left my cousin's house to drive home. But for some reason I stayed, and slowly, the Sixers began to come back. Andre Miller was superb, controlling the game, rebounding, dishing and doing some scoring. Louis Williams gave the Sixers a nice spark, and Andre Iguodala was the exactly what he's supposed to be—the Sixers' best player.

With a helping hand from Donyell Marshall, who hit some big shots and grabbed some boards, along with Theo Ratliff, who gave the Sixers great defense and nabbed a huge offensive rebound down the stretch, the Sixers came all the way back, and Andre Iguodala hit an impossible shot to steal game 1, 100-98.

It was a pretty amazing Sunday:

BallHype: hype it up!

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