jakub voracek

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets


WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Now that the Flyers have seemingly rediscovered their scoring touch, they must next find a way to win a game again.

Mark Scheifele provided the game-tying goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday after the Flyers had led for nearly 57 minutes before finally losing to the Jets, 3-2, in a shootout (see observations).

The defeat marks the Flyers' first three-game losing streak of the season.

“It’s something that hurts," Jakub Voracek said. "We were up 2-1 with a minute left. That’s a game you have to control and find a way to win. I think in overtime we were better. We had a lot of scoring chances, but again, it hurts."

Scheifele’s goal came after the Jets had pulled goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for the extra attacker. The Jets' No. 1 center worked a nice play with forward Blake Wheeler, as he sneaked his way between four Flyers and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Brian Elliott (see highlights).

“We had some tired coverage, and part of that is we had a couple of forwards that were tired on that coverage play and we had five D that played a lot of minutes through Periods 2 and 3,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s still no excuse. We don’t want to give that goal up obviously, but we played a pretty good road game tonight.”

Voracek gave the Flyers their initial lead just 2:27 into the game when he jumped on Sean Couturier’s rebound shot and wristed it past Hellebuyck for the 1-0 advantage. Voracek’s fifth of the season snapped the Flyers' scoreless drought at 158 minutes and 36 seconds. Less than three minutes later, Couturier answered with a rebound goal of his own.

“We knew we were going to score today," Voracek said. "It’s kind of a relief that after two games we scored two quick ones. We couldn’t close it. Too bad for us."

“For sure, it helps mentally,” Couturier said of the goals. “At the same time, we were prepared tonight to come out and it was behind us our last two games. We worked on it Wednesday trying to be more in front of the net, more in front of the goalie. I think we did a better job, for sure.”

The problem with the Flyers' goal scoring is how it continues to be pumped out of the same well. The Flyers' top line has been counted on to score the team’s past five tallies with the last goal from someone not named Claude Giroux, Voracek or Couturier coming in a 5-4 loss to the Avalanche on Nov. 4. 

With the return of rookie Nolan Patrick, Hakstol switched up his second and third lines for a second straight game. Patrick was eased back into the Flyers' lineup and played just 7:32 after sitting out the previous nine games with suspected concussion-related symptoms, centering a line with Dale Weise and Wayne Simmonds.

“I thought his game was good,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t play on the power play, but he was limited in his minutes. I thought he was sharp. He was strong on the puck. For not being in the lineup and coming into a pretty heavy game, I thought he played a pretty good hockey game.”

The Flyers were also forced to play shorthanded with five defensemen after Radko Gudas was assessed a five-minute major for slashing Mathieu Perreault in the back of the head while he dropped to his knees on the ice (see video). Initially, referees Jon McIsaac and Gord Dwyer assessed matching minor penalties to Gudas and Perreault but reconvened shortly after the play was shown on the scoreboard and the crowd collectively gasped in horror over the hit.

Not long afterwards, Gudas was given the major/misconduct penalty and ejected from the game. 

“I’ll assume they didn’t look at video,” Hakstol said. “They have a process they go through. If they have something in question, they huddle up and they make their best judgement. I would absolutely assume they did not have video involved."

The Jets converted 3 of 4 shootout attempts with Scheifele, Patrick Laine and Bryan Little beating Elliott, who was superb once again, but it was Laine’s goal Elliott would like to have back.

“He does [that move] every time. I knew he was doing it and he still scored," Elliott said. "That’s on me. If you look at every tape he does, it’s every shootout. He does the same thing and he still put it in. I don’t know what happened. He hit my stick and it went in.” 

The Flyers picked up a point, but giving one back hurts even more. They’re now 2-4-3 in one-goal games, having dropped their last five by the slightest of margins.

Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it

Flyers-Jets observations: Goal drought ends, but no win to show for it


WINNIPEG, Manitoba — All the Flyers needed was a change of opponent to change their goal-scoring luck. However, it didn’t change the outcome. 

The Jets connected on 3 of 4 shootout attempts to earn the extra point Thursday and defeat the Flyers, 3-2, at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.

Jakub Voracek snapped the goalless drought just 2:27 into the opening period and Sean Couturier added to the lead a few minutes later as the Flyers were up 2-0 after the opening period. 

Jets center Mark Scheifele tied the game with 49 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

Despite the loss, Brian Elliott was still superb in net as he turned aside 31 of 33 shots.

• Jacob Trouba deserved a high-sticking penalty with roughly two minutes remaining in overtime when he shoved the butt of his stick under Couturier’s chin. Nothing was called by the officials. 

• The Flyers were given another power play and a chance to extend their lead in the third after Dustin Byfuglien’s sloppy tripping penalty on Travis Konecny. Couturier appeared to have a wide-open net from the left circle with Connor Hellebuyck out of position, but he hesitated long enough as it appeared he couldn’t get off a clean shot through traffic.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill came up with an excellent kill early in the third period as the Jets’ PP wasn't able to generate even one shot on Elliott. The Jets never really threatened to score during the entire two minutes.

• There was good early pressure from the Flyers’ second line when Jordan Weal and Konecny harassed the Jets’ defensive tandem of Toby Enstrom and Byfuglien into a turnover as Enstrom threw a blind pass behind the net. Eventually, that line drew a penalty when Scheifele crosschecked Valtteri Filppula away from the puck.

• Excellent rebound control for Elliott throughout, especially on the Jets’ first power play attempt of the second period. You can’t fault him at all on the Jets’ goal once Brandon Manning was deked on the play off a beautiful move from Joel Arnia. Arnia then fed a cutting Mathieu Perreault, who slid a backhand under Elliott’s pads. The play started when the Jets won the faceoff cleanly and the Flyers couldn’t settle into their coverage.

• Where was the forward coverage on Scheifele’s wide-open backhand shot on Elliott late in the second period? With the defense tied up in coverage along the boards, it appeared as if Konecny was late to react to a wide-open Scheifele in the slot.   

• With the Flyers in the middle of a line change, Couturier forced Trouba into a turnover along the boards and then centered a pass to Konecny, who had a wide-open look from the high slot. Those are the opportunities the other lines need to create and the type of shots Konecny needs to convert. Konecny had another prime opportunity with about five minutes remaining. It appeared he had a wide-open look but then elected to pass.

• Byfuglien delivered an elbow and an open-ice hit that came very close to Weal’s head. No penalty was called, but it very easily could have been elbowing as Byfuglien extended his forearm against a smaller Weal.

• It looked like the second power-play unit had an open seam to Michael Raffl right in front of the crease as the Jets lost containment for a second. Raffl has played well on the fourth line, but hasn’t had too many scoring opportunities. He has just 12 shots on goal in his first 18 games.

• Late in the second period, players on both teams started taking runs at their opponent as they tried to line up the big open-ice hit. These game against Byfuglien and the Jets usually seem to trend in that direction.

• It took all of 2:27 into the first period for the Flyers to finally break the drought. The play started when the Jets’ shot attempt missed the net completely, which produced a clean breakout for the Flyers. Voracek brought the puck across the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Couturier, who unleashed a shot that created a big rebound. Credit Couturier for shooting low on Hellebuyck and Voracek skating into the middle where he was in perfect position for the rebound goal.

• Mired in a 4-for-35 slump, the power play gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead as it was able to find the open lanes in the Jets’ box. Voracek spotted Wayne Simmonds just to the left of Hellebuyck. Simmonds nearly scored along the post, but his shot created another rebound in the slot where Couturier was lurking. 

• With Scott Laughton off for hooking, the Jets’ always dangerous first-unit power play looked to unleash Patrick Laine’s wicked one-timer. Elliott was obviously trending to his right and was in position to make a couple of saves on Laine.

• Perreault completely baited Radko Gudas into the five-minute slashing major when Perreault was taking several whacks into Gudas’ back. After having his helmet dislodged and slipping to the ice, Gudas caught Perreault’s neck with his stick (see video). It had the appearance of a very dangerous play, but those are the types of plays that Gudas needs to show some restraint. The play looked a lot worse than it was. 

• Can’t figure out what the officials were thinking when they assessed matching minors and then went to look at video before making the determination that Gudas deserved a major/game misconduct. You make those calls on the ice, not after video review.      

• Big glove save from Elliott on Bryan Little. However, the play was set up by Nikolaj Ehlers, the Danish-born winger who’s one of the more underrated players in the NHL. Ehlers has loads of talent with tremendous puck-handling skills and terrific speed. Ehlers had another drag move that completely faked out Simmonds to free up his shot on the Jets’ power play.

• The best shift of the first period came from Laughton as he displayed tremendous pursuit and aggression to fight off three Winnipeg defenders and cycle the puck behind the net. After the Jets finally gained possession, Laughton never stopped skating and jumped on a turnover and was able to get a shot off from the high slot. Textbook shift! 

• Travis Sanheim seemed inspired to play in front of about 20 family and friends who made the drive to Winnipeg from Elkhorn, Manitoba, which is about a three-hour drive west. Sanheim made a good defensive play on Perreault and then made a nice pass to Couturier, who didn’t appear to be expecting the feed. He seems primed to score his first NHL goal.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Flyers' top line delivers statement in win over Blackhawks

Flyers' top line delivers statement in win over Blackhawks


The Blackhawks want what the Flyers have right now.

A dominant No. 1 line.

The Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek trio scored all three of the Flyers' goals Thursday, dominating the Blackhawks' top line in the first 25 minutes of a 3-1 victory (see observations).

“When you get a chance to play against one of the top lines in the league, you get excited about it,” Claude Giroux said. “Coach told us that we were going to play most of the game against them. I think when you play with the same guys for a good amount of games, you feel more comfortable and the chemistry is more there.”

Giroux scored his ninth goal of the season 4:58 into the game on a perfect one-time feed from Voracek. A little more than seven minutes later, Shayne Gostisbehere teed up a similar pass for Voracek, who ripped home his fourth goal in his last seven games (see highlights)

Three goals, four assists and a plus-9 rating compared to Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane that finished with a minus-5 and no points. The Flyers' "Big Three" has combined for 60 points in the Flyers' first 16 games of the season. 

“It was a big matchup and a big challenge for us,” Couturier said. “We’re willing to go against anyone. We feel really confident about our game right now. We can outscore any line or any pairing. We've just got to keep going.”

“You’re talking about competitive people,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s three good players on that line and they’re all different, they play the game differently, they have different elements, different strengths, but the three of them together, big credit to them — it has worked well for our hockey team to this point.”

Hakstol assembled the Flyers' top line by transitioning Giroux from center to left wing during the second week of training camp, and the Flyers' head coach has yet to deviate from that trio this season. On the other hand, the Blackhawks are desperate to try anything. 

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville shook up his lines again, this time pairing Toews and Kane together with Sharp in an attempt to rekindle some magic from the glory days of their Stanley Cup seasons. The Flyers proved the experiment to be an utter disaster as it barely lasted 20 minutes before Quenneville pulled the plug and switched Sharp with the speedier Brandon Saad.

Hard to believe this was the same Chicago team that put up 10 goals on the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins just a month ago. 

“[Ivan Provorov] and [Robert Hagg] did a great job against their top line and frustrating them," Gostisbehere said. "When you’re frustrating their top line, it’s kind of like cutting the head off a snake. The rest of the team will fold. I think we did a lot of good things out there of limiting time and space because they’re a skilled team."

Gostisbehere became the quickest defenseman to score 100 points in a Flyers uniform, reaching the milestone in 155 games

“Yeah, it’s awesome, a tremendous honor to do it but do it with my teammates and my coaches, they put me in those situations to go out there and get those points,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s huge. It’s a nice group effort — family support, everyone.”

After the Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, they appeared to shift into cruise control and were outplayed over the final 35 minutes. Brian Elliott, who lost, 3-0, to the same Blackhawks just eight days earlier, bailed out the Flyers on more than one occasion with perhaps his best all-around game since joining the Flyers.

Elliott turned aside 38 shots and was vital in helping the Flyers kill off Chicago’s two-man advantage for 1:44 near the end of the second period.   

“It was huge," Elliott said. "They could have tied it up there at the end of the period and we would have been tied going in. Killing that off was big for our guys. We did a really great job. They didn’t do much on it. You keep things to the outside on that and they didn’t cross box us, so that’s good.”

When asked which save stood out the most, Elliott pointed to a pass he disrupted as the one play that was fresh in his mind.

“Taking away that pass from Kane in the 5-on-3 with my stick," Elliott said. "I was happy with that one because that’s an open net at the backdoor.”

“It’s big, to be able to get that at that time of the game and that situation," Hakstol said. "[Elliott] did a good job, made some saves for us. PK battled hard, big part of the game.”

The Flyers' win also marked the 14th consecutive regular-season win over the Blackhawks at the Wells Fargo Center, dating back to Nov. 9, 1996.

Quenneville might consider reuniting Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull on a top line if he thought it might bring the Blackhawks a win in Philadelphia.