Flyers

NHL gives Jakub Voracek 2-game suspension for interference on Johnny Boychuk

NHL gives Jakub Voracek 2-game suspension for interference on Johnny Boychuk

Once again, the NHL Department of Player Safety has confused everybody with one of its rulings.

The league handed Jakub Voracek a two-game suspension Sunday for his interference on Johnny Boychuk during the third period of the Flyers' 5-2 win Saturday over the Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

With the puck in the corner, Boychuk made a beeline for Voracek, who braced himself for a hit by throwing some weight back at the Islanders' blueliner.

Boychuk, not expecting Voracek's instincts, was knocked down on the play and didn't return to the game.

Next time, Voracek will have to show no awareness and simply eat the contact from a defenseman barreling down on him along the boards.

Here were the major points in the review from the NHL's Department of Player Safety:

Voracek sees Boychuk approaching with speed, and ignoring the puck entirely, cuts sharply into Boychuk's path, driving his upper back into Boychuk's head and knocking him to the ice. This is interference.

Players establishing positioning around the boards often initiate body contact with their back to keep their opponent away from the puck and to protect themselves from being hit into the boards. Depending on the force of the contact and the way in which it is initiated, this type of contact is often permitted or can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials.

What causes this hit to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the distance both players are from the puck, the substantial contact with Boychuk's head and the force of the hit. When Voracek initiates this hit, he and Boychuk are at the hash marks while the puck is at the goal line. There is no reason for any player in Boychuk's position to anticipate contact of any kind, let alone a forceful hit to the head by an opponent's back.

This is a case in which Voracek initiates high, forceful contact on an unsuspecting player who is not in possession of the puck and is not eligible to be checked in any fashion.

Voracek has no history of dirty or malicious play. He has never been fined or suspended in his 834-game career.

At this point, not even a psychic could predict the NHL's decision-making on these types of matters.

Somehow, Voracek got two games, but Evgeni Malkin was banned just one for swinging his stick like a baseball bat near Michael Raffl's head, and Kurtis Gabriel received the same punishment for viciously boarding a defenseless Nolan Patrick.

Voracek explained himself postgame Saturday when speaking to reporters about the play and Boychuk, who was seen calling out the Flyers' winger when leaving the ice.

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.

Eleven minutes before the NHL Department of Player Safety announced its decision, Voracek tweeted this:

The suspension is an obvious blow to the Flyers, who had just gotten Voracek back from a lower-body injury that cost him two games. The Flyers have 14 games remaining and are chasing a playoff berth, entering Sunday five points back of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

Voracek has been crucial to the Flyers' run, scoring 29 points in his last 24 games.

Now, let's all try to make sense of how he'll have to watch the next two.

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

2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

BOX SCORE

Travis Konecny stormed into the NHL All-Star break already with a new career high in assists. The Flyers' winger has 26 helpers and is projected to finish with 44, a sign of significant growth in a breakout 2019-20 season for the 22-year-old.

On Saturday night in the 2020 All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Konecny put his facilitating on display during the 3-on-3 action featuring the world's best players. He finished with three assists in the Metropolitan Division's 9-5 semifinal loss to the Atlantic Division.

"I had a lot of fun," Konecny said Saturday, via Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill. "It was pretty funny, I was watching my parents in the stands and my mom didn't understand why we weren't playing like a real game.

"It's my first game and it's her first time seeing it. I don't know if she was expecting me to be blocking shots and forechecking, stuff like that. I had a lot of fun with it.

"It was a really cool experience, getting to play with some players, too, that I usually won't get the chance to play with was fun."

Konecny playing in his first All-Star Game at 22 years old should be exciting for the Flyers. Claude Giroux was 23 years old for his first All-Star Game back in 2011. The future looks bright for Konecny, who signed a new six-year, $33 million contract back in mid-September.

With 17 goals and 43 points through 47 games, Konecny is eight goals and seven points away from setting career highs across the board.

A breakout, indeed.

Here are more sights and scenes from Konecny's first All-Star Game:

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

Why Flyers fans should be hopeful about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Why Flyers fans should be hopeful about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Today, we break down why Flyers fans should be hopeful for the post-All-Star break stretch. On Sunday, we’ll look at the reasons for concern.

Through 50 games, the Flyers have done two important things. They’ve played well within the division and have dominated at home. 

Those two trends bode well for after the All-Star break because divisional games become much bigger and confidence at home is paramount as the pressure builds.

The Flyers are 17-4-4 at home and 9-2-3 against Metropolitan foes. The marks are notable given the Flyers fell sorely short in those areas last season, when they finished 19-18-4 at home and 10-16-2 in divisional play.

Another positive is the Flyers are getting healthier after the break. Shayne Gostisbehere (knee) could be back Friday in the Flyers’ first game out of the bye week, while Carter Hart (abdominal strain) is expected to return not long after.

But what might be the Flyers’ most convincing piece of evidence for optimism is how they’ve performed against the NHL’s best teams. The Flyers have shown they can play with any club, which is huge for their own belief moving forward.

The Flyers are 11th in the NHL standings at 27-17-6. They've gone 9-5-3 against the top-10 teams and 5-1-1 vs. the top four.

Head coach Alain Vigneault has a history of taking teams to the playoffs, and doing so in Year 1 on the job. At his previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons produced playoff bids and at least one series victory.

Vigneault’s track record will be tested over the Flyers’ final 32 games.

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