jakub voracek

Calendar flip remains unkind to Flyers

Calendar flip remains unkind to Flyers


The Flyers missed a prime opportunity to overtake the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-2 loss to their cross-state rival at the Wells Fargo Center.

Just like the previous game here on Jan. 2, the Pens scored three unanswered goals during the second period Wednesday. That outburst came after the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on Travis Konecny’s 18th goal of the season.

Conor Sheary scored two goals in just under five minutes — his second goal gave Pittsburgh a two-goal lead in the final minute of the second period.

Playing his first game since Feb. 18, Wayne Simmonds returned to the Flyers' lineup and finished with a minus-4.

The Flyers’ power play finished the game 0 for 5 and is now 3 for 27 over the last 10 games. 

Sidney Crosby had three assists to pace the Penguins.

The Flyers and Penguins will meet one final time in the regular season, March 25 in Pittsburgh. 

• Interesting and yet frustrating how the first two penalties — Jori Lehtera for holding and Robert Hagg for boarding — called on the Flyers were by the referee who was 80 feet away from the play and not the referee up close near the play.

• Credit the Flyers’ penalty kill for doing an outstanding job of limiting the NHL’s No. 1 power play that was on the ice for nearly six minutes of the opening period. Pittsburgh managed five shots on Petr Mrazek, but not one from the high-danger area. Not only that, but the Flyers’ penalty killers also drew a pair of penalties. Part of the strategy early on was to get out high near the points and not allow rebound opportunities.  

• The Penguins were finally able to strike on their fourth power play as the Flyers were unable to clear the zone. Pittsburgh caught the Flyers out of position, which opened up a clear passing lane underneath the coverage. Evgeni Malkin set up Phil Kessel for an easy tap-in goal, and an early 1-0 lead.

• The Flyers never got into rhythm as four penalties completely zapped any pace and energy that would have been generated at even strength.

• The Flyers opened up the second period in attack mode, which is what Dave Hakstol was preaching he wanted to see from his team. Jakub Voracek scored inadvertently when Nolan Patrick stripped Derick Brassard from behind and fed him a pass on the left wing. Voracek’s attempted centering pass went off Brassard’s stick, but it was all set up by Patrick’s backcheck.

• You have to admire Konecny’s never-quit attitude and tenacity toward attacking the net. The Flyers' winger scored a goal earlier this season when he alertly caught the puck underneath the goalie and pushed it across the line. Konecny’s relentlessness was on display again as his backhand attempt was denied by Tristan Jarry but he somehow had the wrist strength to stay with it and flip it up over the goalie’s pads. It was a tremendous effort to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

• Mrazek struggled securing the puck and that appeared to be the case on the Penguins’ second goal. With a lot of traffic in front of him, Mrazek wasn’t able to glove Jamie Oleksiak’s shot from the point, which led to Pittsburgh’s tying goal. The Flyers challenged the marker on the basis of goalie interference, but it was a good no-call. Mrazek didn’t plead for interference, which sometimes can be persuasive in overturning those calls.

• Pittsburgh proceeded to score three unanswered goals in the second period. Rookie Hagg picked the wrong time to step up and pinch in the offensive zone and it cost the Flyers dearly. Hagg’s gaffe led to a 2-on-1 with Crosby taking the shot. Mrazek made the initial save, but Andrew MacDonald left his feet and Hagg couldn’t get back in time to clear the rebound as Sheary scored the first of his two goals for a 3-2 Penguins’ lead. 

• Sheary’s second goal that put the Penguins ahead 4-2 was just sheer luck, or better yet, Sheary luck. Brandon Manning’s skate redirected a shot that came from just inside the blue line and went right to Sheary on the right wing. A bang-bang play that Mrazek didn’t have enough time to react and cover the angle from Sheary’s shot.

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

MONTREAL — They’re watching it. They’re following it. But the Flyers don’t appear to be sweating it too much as the NHL’s 3 p.m. Monday trade deadline fast approaches.

As they wrapped up an abbreviated practice Sunday afternoon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the team had just learned that Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec had been dealt to the Maple Leafs, and the rumors are swirling regarding Montreal captain Max Pacioretty. 

“I know what’s going on,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s different. I haven’t been in this situation since my first year here (2011-12). Obviously it feels pretty good, but you never know what’s going to happen no matter what position you are in.”

It’s the first time the Flyers, sitting pretty in second in the Metropolitan Division as of Sunday morning and owners of a five-game win streak and points in their last 10 games, have been a potential buyer since Ron Hextall took over as general manager in 2014, and consequently, there’s no real threat of trading players to Cup-contending teams like we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

Still, Hextall elected to stay behind in Voorhees, New Jersey, fielding phone calls and performing his due diligence as the Flyers prepare to face the Canadiens Monday night. He’s already given up conditional draft pick(s) to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from Detroit, and he may consider adding depth to a team with a solid nucleus.

And, keep in mind, it has reserves on the way when goalies Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott get healthy and Wayne Simmonds returns from his injury in the coming weeks.

“We have good chemistry inside that locker room,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “From my standpoint, our whole focus has been finding ways to get better from within — from within our dressing room and from within our own organization. If there’s a move or a decision that has to be made that Hex feels will make us better, I’m sure he’ll look at that in every way, but our job is to take care of our own business.”

Right now, that’s the perplexity of a playoff team that could benefit from adding experience. At the same time, there’s a risk tinkering with the chemistry that has developed over the past three months — a team that has endured and bonded following a 10-game winless streak to become one of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference with a 25-8-3 record and 53 points since Dec 4. 

“We’ve done a good job of playing as a team and sticking together, especially when you lose 10 in a row,” captain Claude Giroux said. “I think you see the true colors of players and we didn’t have any negative things with this group. It’s definitely a positive. We like where this team is headed. Whatever Hexy decides at the deadline, that’s his decision, but we like who we have in this room.”

Hextall has stated previously that he believes major deadline deals don’t usually yield the desired playoff results, and he’s definitely not looking to mortgage the future by giving up prized prospects.

So don’t hold your breath that Hextall joins the likes of the Penguins, who dealt for Derrick Brassard, and Bruins, who acquired Rick Nash on Sunday morning, who are taking an “all-in” approach with the postseason nearing. 

As for the Flyers, they’re breathing a little easier as well. 

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics


Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.