Flyers

Jakub Voracek can't wrap head around how bad Flyers played

Jakub Voracek can't wrap head around how bad Flyers played

VOORHEES, N.J. — After elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, pride is all the Flyers had left to play for.

Right now, pride hasn’t been much of a motivator. 

“I think even if you don’t try, I don’t think it could be that bad,“ Jakub Voracek said Friday. “It was probably the worst period I was a part of in 11 years.”

That was Voracek’s assessment following Thursday’s game in St. Louis as the Flyers were in complete disarray, allowing five goals in the first 9:41 of the game (see observations). It was the quickest five goals in the 52-year history of the Blues’ franchise.

Which makes you wonder how much effort the Flyers exerted in the first period of another dreadful loss — their sixth in the last seven games. In that span, the Flyers have also been outscored 15-5 in the first period.

“I was trying to wrap my head around it, but I couldn’t,” Voracek said. “There was nothing there yesterday — skill wise, playing wise, skating wise, battle wise. It was really disappointing. You guys ask me what we need to do. I don’t f---ing know.”

For starters, the Flyers could finish out their season with some semblance of structure. Right now, they’re playing as if they’ve scrapped their game plan just minutes after warmups, where the intensity of performing at a playoff pitch for two-plus months has finally taken its toll. 

“I think that loss in Toronto (7-6 on March 15) took the wind out of our sails,” interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “The way it happened, the timing of when it happened. From an energy standpoint, I think there’s a little bit of a drain from what we had gone through the two prior months. Now we’re in a situation where we haven’t had anything to play for a few games now.”

And it has clearly showed.

A regulation loss against an inspired Hurricanes team Saturday would put the Flyers at the .500 mark with a record of 37-37-8 while finishing with just 82 points. It would be their worst mark since 2006-07, when they finished with a dismal 56 points, and their second-worst single-season record in the past 25 years, excluding shortened 48-game seasons.   

“It sucks. Obviously when you get eliminated, it sucks,” Voracek said. “There’s a lot more to play for after you’re eliminated — your pride, a lot of guys have contracts.”

The Flyers have one more opportunity Saturday to put their disappointment aside or risk being booed out of their own building when they face the resurgent Hurricanes, a team that secured its first postseason berth since 2009 with a 3-1 win over the Devils Thursday.

With a win over the Flyers, Carolina can also avoid a potential first-round playoff matchup with the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We just want to finish strong,” Sean Couturier said. “I think we owe it to the fans. It’s been tough [for them] this year. We need to show some pride and put on a good show for the fans.”

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Former Flyers assistant coach Rick Wilson's comment on Shayne Gostisbehere a key reminder for 2019-20

Former Flyers assistant coach Rick Wilson's comment on Shayne Gostisbehere a key reminder for 2019-20

Maybe Shayne Gostisbehere and Rick Wilson weren't best friends.

That's OK.

A player and coach don't have to be buddy-buddy with each other, but they do have to understand each other. That's how you get the best out of a player.

In 2018-19, Gostisbehere underwhelmed significantly. He didn't blame anyone but himself. But he did play for two head coaches and two different assistants that oversaw the Flyers' defensemen. So, systematically and stylistically, things can change.

Wilson, with 30 years of NHL coaching experience, came on board in December. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman caught up with Wilson for parts of his latest 31 Thoughts column, an always-excellent read for hockey folks.

The 68-year-old Wilson, who was not retained by the Flyers, offered some insight on the team's blueliners after working with them for the final four-plus months of the season.

Here was the section on Gostisbehere from Friedman's piece:

Wilson did not mention Shayne Gostisbehere, so I brought him up. He was careful.

'I would just say that I'm a little disappointed I couldn't help him bring more of his best on a consistent basis … he is very talented and it is in there.'

By the time the calendar flipped to 2019, the Flyers were allowing the NHL's third-most goals. In an attempt to clean up the team's issues, adjustments were made. Gostisbehere's ice time fluctuated at different points. The 26-year-old is an offensive-minded defenseman. His game is predicated on playing freely, taking calculated risks, moving the puck up ice and making things happen.

At his end-of-the-season press conference, Gostisbehere was asked if he felt he had the freedom to take chances on the ice throughout the year.

"With Rick coming in and different coaches and whatnot, they tweaked the style — not just me personally, but how he wants the defense to play," Gostisbehere said. "I wouldn't say they put handcuffs on me or anything, but they pulled the reins back quite a bit just in what they wanted us to do collectively as a D core."

None of this is to say Gostisbehere is some type of player incapable of being coached. None of it's to say his role isn't safe with the Flyers. He doesn't have a problem listening or taking instruction. His strengths, though, are sometimes criticized and put under a microscope for being viewed as not playing his position wisely or correctly.

"I just want to get better, get better as a player, I want to be a staple point as a defenseman in this league — one of the better ones, not one who's just looked at offensively," Gostisbehere said in April. "It's tough when you start a season and you see the net filling up and we're giving up seven goals every other game. Changes happen. It's tough, it was a tough season in general, but you've got to stick with it and remember what got you there."

All of this is further emphasis on how imperative coaching is to a player like Gostisbehere. Getting the best out of him is vital to the Flyers. When he's clicking, when he's dynamic, when he's elusive, the Flyers are substantially better. That was evident in 2017-18, when he experienced a career year with 65 points (13 goals, 52 assists), the fourth most among NHL defensemen.

"Ghost is obviously elite in some of those areas," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in April. "He can break a guy down 1-on-1 and he can also make a 100-foot stretch pass."

Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo are Gostisbehere's new coaches. How quickly the two mesh with an important player will be one of the biggest storylines in 2019-20.

"He's always been a believer of getting the puck going north and getting the D up in the play," Fletcher said of Vigneault. "I think our D is ideally suited for Alain."

That should be music to Gostisbehere's ears.

h/t to CBS Philly's Tom Dougherty.

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The South Philly bar that's gone 'all in' on the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

The South Philly bar that's gone 'all in' on the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Jacks NYB has been rooting for the St. Louis Blues since an encounter with some of the players in January.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta takes a deeper look at why these life-long Flyers fans are now pulling for the Blues in the video below.