There's a transparency to Jakub Voracek that doesn't accompany a lot of hockey players.
On Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field, Voracek labeled the Flyers' 4-3 overtime stunner against the Penguins as "the biggest win of the year."
The biggest win of the year he didn't see coming.
"In the third period, I wasn't sure what was going to happen," Voracek said. "To be honest, I wasn't believing we were going to win, which is probably bad to say."
There's that brutal honesty everyone loves.
"What's wrong with you, man?" Claude Giroux said with a laugh and smile, looking over at Voracek.
What many don't hear about or see with Voracek is toughness — a grind that can go unnoticed with his status as a playmaker. He's often the butt of a backchecking joke and as the Flyers got off to another rough start this season, questions circulated around the team's core group of players, with Voracek one of the main targets of criticism.
But Voracek has always accepted responsibility. While he's refreshingly candid, he doesn't give excuses. To his credit this season, he has met the pressure head on.
Saturday night was another example of it. With the Flyers facing a third straight loss and a hefty punch to their playoff hopes, Voracek fulfilled his playmaking duties. As the Flyers trailed, 3-1, he assisted James van Riemsdyk's marker with 3:04 left in regulation, then scored the game-tying goal with 20 ticks left on the clock.
He finished as the game's first star with three points and six shots in 22:02 ice time.
What made the performance exude toughness?
Consider interim head coach Scott Gordon's revelation afterward:
Nobody knows this, but he was pretty sick for about … it started on Monday. I forget which days he didn't practice with us, he didn't pregame skate, he stayed in the hotel on the road. He gets through the week, he hasn't eaten anything for pretty much four days, [Friday] was the first day he actually ate and I thought he played with great energy tonight.
He's a guy that when he gets the puck, as a coach, you get excited, something good is going to happen. When your team is down, you're looking at some point, he's going to make something happen and he's really consistent with that.
In his previous three games, two of which were lopsided losses for the Flyers, Voracek went scoreless with just six shots in 16:25 minutes per game.
However, since Jan. 8, Voracek has put up 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) over 20 games, a stretch in which the Flyers are 14-5-1 to gain relevancy in the postseason race.
On the morning of Jan. 14, when the Flyers were in dead last in the 31-team NHL standings with 38 points, Voracek was blunt about the situation.
"You have to make it light here in the locker room, but it's a tough thing to do when you're playing the way you do as a team like we do right now," Voracek said. "I think it's the toughest season that I've been through in 11 years. Hopefully it's going to turn around and we're going to find a way to battle to the end for a playoff spot."
The Flyers now have an honest chance with 20 games to go. Through the turmoil and doubt of 2018-19, Voracek has shown he can still keep the Flyers in the picture.
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