Flyers

Jakub Voracek not having WrestleMania with Johnny Boychuk, Islanders

Jakub Voracek not having WrestleMania with Johnny Boychuk, Islanders

Updated: 7:33 p.m.

Johnny Boychuk went flying after Jakub Voracek, so the Flyers' winger wisely braced himself for a hit by throwing some weight back at the Islanders' blueliner.

Should Voracek just take a shot from a defenseman barreling down on him and the puck near the boards?

With the Flyers holding a comfortable 5-1 lead 5:41 into the third period of Saturday night's game, Voracek used upper-body force to impede the beelining Boychuk. Unfortunately, Boychuk, not expecting Voracek's awareness, went down on the play and never returned to the game. However, the injury wasn't severe enough to stop him from calling out Voracek as he left the ice.

Voracek was assessed a five-minute major for interference and had a hearing Sunday with the NHL's Department of Player Safety.

He was somehow suspended two games (see story).

Voracek got the best of New York by doing actual hockey things during a convincing — and needed — 5-2 win, his first game back after missing the previous two with a lower-body injury (see observations). Voracek finished with two assists, giving him 29 points in his last 24 games, a stretch in which the Flyers are 17-5-2.

When asked postgame about the collision with Boychuk, here's what Voracek had to say to reporters at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum:

The explanation I got was if I hit him in the head, it would be a game [misconduct]. I don't know why I got five. I try to protect myself, to be honest, maybe the puck was a little further than I thought — I thought the puck was close to me.

It's a tough hit. You know, he's getting off the ice, he's pointing at me like it's a WrestleMania or something. Pointing at me like it's a WrestleMania. Come on, it's a hockey game. … He's the guy that was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year in the end of a game. He's going to do that? Give me a break.

Voracek is right.

The play wasn't dirty and he has no history of maliciousness. The guy is a playmaker for crying out loud, not an enforcer.

The frustrated Islanders then tried everything in their power to turn the game into WrestleMania but the Flyers weren't having it. They were up 5-1 and have 14 crucial games left in their playoff chase (see standings).

Why get into a brawl of some sort and risk injury or even suspension?

The Flyers meet the Islanders once more this season — March 23 at the Wells Fargo Center. The game should have plenty of importance.

Knowing Voracek and the Flyers, they'll be focused on hockey, not WrestleMania.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers' Kevin Hayes brings positive outlook to NHL return, eyeing Stanley Cup

Flyers' Kevin Hayes brings positive outlook to NHL return, eyeing Stanley Cup

When the Flyers begin training camp on Monday in preparation for the NHL playoffs, there’s bound to be plenty of surprises along the way.

The continued emergence of COVID-19 in this country makes this situation very fluid, and despite the NHL having both of its bubble cities in Canada, there will still be a heavy emphasis on health protocols upon arrival. Flyers center Kevin Hayes thinks the empty buildings will be the thing that stands out most.

“It’s definitely going to be interesting with no fans and kind of being locked in a bubble, but that’s why we play the game. We play to win the Stanley Cup and this is just another chance to do that,” Hayes said Wednesday to Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill.

While baseball’s return-to-play plan has teams playing in their home stadiums with no fans present, the NHL and NBA have elected for the bubble plan with the NBA playing entirely in Orlando, Florida, and hockey has targeted Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto.

Hayes believes while the plan has a downside, there are plenty of silver linings.

“I don’t think anyone wants to live in a bubble at all, but it’ll be kind of nice to be with the guys every day that you haven’t seen for a while," Hayes said. "If they say that’s the safest way to finish the season, I think the guys will be cool with it.” 

The players do have the option of not playing and opting out of the NHL’s restart. We’ve seen it with players from the NBA and MLB, with some saying they aren’t going to play for various reasons citing family concerns, health concerns or things of that nature, but for Hayes, this was never on his mind.

“I never considered opting out," Hayes said. "I know the Flyers' organization has done their due diligence on making sure every player is protected and in the safest environment.” 

Hayes said he’s been extremely impressed with the protocols that have been in place since he’s returned to Philadelphia after working out with a trainer in Boston for much of the NHL pause.  

“I haven’t felt unsafe once," he said. "We pretty much test every day and they take every single situation pretty serious.” 

This is certainly a new world for the players, coaches and everyone involved as the league looks to resume, but if Hayes’ perspective is any indication, the Flyers are embracing the challenge in front of them and are ready to get going. This has been an interesting start to his Flyers career for the prized offseason free agent signing and Hayes is hoping to bring the city some hardware, regardless of the time or situation it happens. 

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Matt Niskanen.

Destra

I’m not going to lie — I fell under the category of not fully understanding the trade for Niskanen during the offseason in a one-for-one deal, sending former Flyer Radko Gudas to the Capitals. At the time, the most appealing aspects about the deal were recognizing the level of veteran experience Niskanen was going to bring to the blue line and his extensive résumé when it came to the playoffs. 

Now, with his first regular season as a Flyer officially at an end, it’s safe to say he was an absolute steal. Way to win a trade, Chuck Fletcher. 

Not only did he post 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists), making him the second-best defenseman in points on the team, but he elevated his partner Ivan Provorov to new heights in his career as well. The duo built such powerful chemistry on the ice and Niskanen provided the skill set needed to help Provorov hone in on his talent.  

There couldn’t have been a better fit for the Flyers and Provorov. Whatever Niskanen’s next steps are in the NHL, let’s hope he wants to stay in Philadelphia for a little while longer. 

A+ for Niskanen — not bad for his 13th season in the league. 

Emmer

The Flyers went from averaging the third-most goals against per game (3.41) and a minus-37 goal differential in 2018-19 to then tying for the seventh-fewest goals against in the league and drawing a plus-36 goal differential this season. A major key for that success was Niskanen.

Niskanen had a lasting impact throughout the regular season on special teams. Most notably, the penalty kill, which he helped improve from 78.5 percent in 2018-19 (26th in NHL) to 81.8 percent (11th in NHL). His power play minutes were also impressive as the four goals scored on the man advantage were the highest in his career.

He brought leadership to the blue line and the dressing room and was a steady presence the Flyers and his defensive partner Provorov depended on throughout the regular season.

I give Niskanen an A.

Fordyce 

Niskanen, an experienced Stanley Cup-winning defenseman, came to the Flyers via trade for Gudas from the Capitals last offseason. His addition to the team added a veteran leader to the roster as well as a possible mentor for some of the Flyers' young defensemen. In his first season with the Flyers, he did both admirably.

Niskanen’s presence on that top defense pair with Provorov allowed Provorov to open up his game more and become a better overall player. Niskanen is a smart defenseman who is rarely out of position, and this allows Provorov as his defensive partner to freelance a bit more, which is one of the strengths of his game. Niskanen also has great puck skills from the point, getting pucks toward the net by pass or shot and creating opportunities. 

No-brainer, Niskanen gets an A.

Hall

What an acquisition by Fletcher. In the Gudas-Niskanen swap, the only other hit for the Flyers was salary related — obviously taking on Niskanen's $5.75 million cap hit as well as retaining 30 percent of Gudas' $3.35 million cap hit.

Niskanen made the trade unquestionably worth it for his new club.

Not only did the 33-year-old Stanley Cup champion significantly improve the Flyers at 5-on-5, on the power play and the penalty kill, but he also did wonders for the rebound of Provorov, a 23-year-old who had far too much on his shoulders last season.

Niskanen's winning pedigree has rubbed off on everyone. With eight goals and 25 assists, he also had a chance to crack 40 points for the second time in his well-established career before the regular season was cut short because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A well-deserved A for Niskanen.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers grades