'Such a relief' as Flyers put 10-game skid to bed with win over Flames

'Such a relief' as Flyers put 10-game skid to bed with win over Flames


CALGARY, Alberta — Jakub Voracek called it the biggest win of his career dating back to the 2010 IIHF World Championships when the Czech Republic won the gold medal.

“It was such a relief,” Voracek said. “You have no idea. It’s crazy.”

No medals were handed out, but a tremendous weight was lifted off the Flyers' shoulders after snapping a 10-game winless streak, their first victory in nearly a month, by beating the Calgary Flames, 5-2, Monday night at Scotiabank Saddledome (see observations).

“That’s a big streak to end,” goalie Brian Elliott, whose last win came on Nov. 9, said. “In doing it the way we did tonight with punctuation was really good for our group. We've got to take that and harness that and take that to the next game. We've got to enjoy this. We’ve waited a little too long for it.”

The biggest change coming into this game was Dave Hakstol’s decision to move Voracek off the team’s top line and match him with Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl. That proved to be a lethal combination as the trio combined for two goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating (see highlights).

“It’s a group that makes sense together, and I think you can credit all three of those guys,” Hakstol said. “I thought they were all very good tonight. Fil played a lot of minutes tonight and he played a real strong game with those two guys on his wing. They seemed to click right away, and they played a real strong game through the 60 minutes.”

Raffl and Voracek connected on a nifty give-and-go goal in the second period to hand the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

“I always like to play with Jake. What’s not to like about it? We’ve been on the same team for five, six years now,” Raffl said. “I’ve played with him for a couple of years so I know what he wants me to do. We talked about it and it was a good start.”

Voracek contributed three assists but was more impressed there was nothing attached to Johnny Gaudreau’s name, as the South Jersey native finished with just two shots, no points and a minus-1 rating.

“For half the game we matched up against the Gaudreau line, and I think we played them pretty well," Voracek said. "When you score on that line and don’t get scored on, it’s always a success. I think we played a real smart hockey game today and it showed.” 

Elliott had been relatively solid through the 10-game winless skid, but coming to Calgary was extra special after his last game at the Saddledome was a terrible memory of losing in a first-round four-game sweep to the Anaheim Ducks. Elliott was pulled in the first period of the series-clinching game.

In his return, Elliott made 43 saves and earned the game’s No. 1 star.

“It was pretty good,” Elliott said. “I got a lot of friends over there but when the puck drops, there’s no friends, and I really wanted that one tonight.”

While the Flames outshot the Flyers by a whopping 45-21 margin, the two teams were actually even with nine chances in the high-danger zone of the ice. A product of that was creating turnovers behind the Flames' net.  

Hakstol not only switched up his lines, but he also altered his system as he employed a 1-2-2 zone for this game that created opportunitistic turnovers for the Flyers.

“It was just a different look for us,” Hakstol said. “We made a couple of slight adjustments tonight. Those things just kind of help you refocus a little bit, but it comes back to what the players have done.”

“We needed to change something up obviously,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Some little adjustments here and there and I think it worked for us. I think a little more passive works for us and it makes them make plays and we avoid our mistakes.”

The Flyers will now travel to Edmonton, where they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers, looking to start just their second winning streak of the season after opening up their first homestand with back-to-back wins over the Capitals and Panthers. 

“It’s one game,” Voracek said. “We fully expect to win on Wednesday. We have to play the same way. We have to be ready. It’s another tough matchup again.”

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

Get in the holiday spirit with the Flyers

Before the Flyers get in the spirit for a sixth straight win on Saturday night, they’ll get you in the holiday spirit, too.

Prior to puck drop against the Stars on NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Flyers will put on a unique holiday-themed light show, which will illuminate the Wells Fargo Center and its ice.

The “Holiday Light Spectacular,” which is presented by the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, will be a 10-minute show starting at 7 p.m., as all fans will be given light-up bracelets to complement a fun Flyers holiday video featured on the ice.

“This show is a new, can’t-miss holiday attraction in Philadelphia and one that we hope becomes an annual tradition for us,” Shawn Tilger, the Flyers’ executive vice president, chief operating officer, alternate governor, said in a release by the team. “This show is in line with the holiday staples of the region, and we’re excited to bring entertainment of this caliber to Flyers fans here on Saturday night.”

For fans with youngsters, Santa Claus will also be in attendance, taking free photos on the main concourse.

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5

Flyers grind for ugly win over Sabres to push streak to 5


It was a Flyers’ win with a capital “U.” 

That’s “U” as in ugly.

However, it was still good enough to beat the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres, as the Flyers skated away with a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night (see observations).

It’s the type of game the Flyers lost earlier in the season during their previous homestead when they came out sloppy against the lowly Arizona Coyotes in an eventual 4-3 loss in overtime.  

“I thought this was a boring game,” Jakub Voracek said. “Honestly, I don’t think we played good today, but we got the win, which is really important. You’re not going to play great every night. We played well when we needed to, but we can play a lot better, which is positive.”

Nothing was uglier than the game’s first goal when Brian Elliott attempted to play the puck behind his net. Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons intercepted Elliott’s pass and fed the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who had a wide-open, unattended net in front of him.

“They came hard and a little miscommunication,” Elliott said. “Bad play on my part and we did a heck of a job of coming back and tying that up. That can go sideways in a hurry. We sorted it out, but our first period was kind of sloppy.”

After Elliott nearly made the same mistake again in the opening period, the Flyers rebounded to the tie game at 1-1 as Travis Sanheim scored his first NHL goal off a feed from Dale Weise (see highlights). However, even Sanheim admitted, the goal was a silver lining from a dark cloud that was looming over him defensively with failed clears and breakdowns in coverage.  

“I don’t think we were very happy with our first period, especially me,” Sanheim said. “Minus the goal, I thought that might have been my worst period of the season, but I think we bounced back and battled hard in the final 40 and came through with the win.”

“He’s been pressing for a little while, so I was so happy to see him get a smile on his face,” Weise said of Sanheim’s goal. “That’s going to do wonders for his game. You see a shift after he gets another chance there. I’m so happy for him.”

Sanheim’s season in some ways has mirrored that of the Flyers’ schedule — a yo-yo performance with bouts of inconsistency. Coming off a 10-game winless stretch, the Flyers have now won five straight. Throughout both streaks, head coach Dave Hakstol has stuck with Sanheim when some coaches may have wavered. 

“There’s always lessons along the way, especially for a young defenseman,” Hakstol said. “He’s had some bumps in the road that every defenseman is going to go through. Tonight’s maybe a little indicative of that. Travis is always honest with himself and the evaluation of his own play, and for me, that always helps keep his feet on the ground and move on to the next challenge.”

“I want to make hard plays and I’ve got to make sure the puck gets over our blue line,” Sanheim said. “It’s easier to sit back and say I could have done this, I could have done that. Going forward, I’ve just got to try and limit those mistakes and try and play a harder game.” 

The Flyers eventually produced the breakthrough goal late in the second period on a tic-tac-toe play started by Michael Raffl, who fed a pass to Voracek and then onto Valtteri Filppula for the one-time goal.

“Those are the best wins,” said Raffl, who played in his 300th career game. “You’re pretty happy when you win 4-1 and you play your best game. It’s easy to laugh, but that was a war out there and the last period, especially, but we came together as a group.”

Of the 14 one-goal games the Flyers have played this season, this was just the third time they earned a victory. Many of those games when they failed to earn a winning decision came after regulation.

“It’s all about confidence,” Voracek said. “Two or three weeks ago when we went into the third period, we would lose that game. Now it’s about making sure those loose pucks get out of the zone and don’t make any dumb decisions.”

“I think it’s huge. When we were in that streak, we blew a lot of leads late in games,” Weise said. “Minus the last two minutes where I think we sat back a little, I thought we did a good job of moving the puck forward, forechecking and not sitting back too much. It’s more of a mental thing to win those type of games.”