Flyers

NHL upholds Jakub Voracek's 2-game suspension

NHL upholds Jakub Voracek's 2-game suspension

Did we actually think the NHL would rule against itself?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday upheld Jakub Voracek’s two-game suspension levied by George Parros from the league’s Department of Player Safety.

Voracek met with Parros and Bettman Tuesday afternoon for about 75 minutes to review the hit on Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who is currently going through the league’s concussion protocol. Boychuk is currently day to day.

The two sides reviewed the video and discussed the details of the play itself.

“I had a good feeling about it, but they’re not going to tell you how they feel right away,” Voracek said after Wednesday’s practice at the Wells Fargo Center.

Voracek spoke prior to the league’s final ruling.

“There’s no question that it was interference," Voracek said. "I think the explanation on a suspension is that I went out of my way to make head contact with Johnny Boychuk, which I don’t think I did. I think I changed my way drastically and my explanation was that I was bracing for contact. I didn’t mean anything by it. Obviously, they saw it differently.”

Interestingly, the on-ice referee Frederick L'Ecuyer told Voracek that he did not make initial contact with Boychuk’s head and that’s why he wasn’t given a game misconduct in addition to his five-minute interference major.   

However, the officials could only make that determination by looking at the play in real time at actual speed, whereas the league office had the luxury of reviewing the hit frame by frame that shows Voracek not only initiated the collision, but also came into contact inadvertently with Boychuk’s head.

Voracek will serve out the remainder of his suspension when the Flyers host the Washington Capitals on Thursday. It’s his first suspension of his 834-game career.

But how can you not be looking to the much anticipated rematch between the Flyers and Islanders on March 23 in Philadelphia after Boychuk motioned at Voracek, saying, “I will get you.”

After the Flyers’ 5-2 win this past Saturday, Voracek fired back:

“He’s pointing at me like it’s WrestleMania or something. Come on, it’s a hockey game," Voracek said. "This is a guy who was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year at the end of the game, and he’s going to do that. Give me a break.”

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Flyers weekly observations: Carter Hart's moxie, Claude Giroux's drive, Isaac Ratcliffe's 50th goal, more

Flyers weekly observations: Carter Hart's moxie, Claude Giroux's drive, Isaac Ratcliffe's 50th goal, more

Nobody thought the Flyers would go down without at least making it interesting, right?

They're hanging on after following up a pair of damaging losses with a 2-1 overtime stunner in Pittsburgh, keeping hope alive as 10 games remain.

We'll touch on that and more in our latest weekly observations:

• Carter Hart's two games back tell you a ton about the kid.

After not seeing game action for 20 days and being benched in his previous two starts, Hart returned to face the Capitals and Penguins — the last three Stanley Cup champions.

How did he do? He stopped 68 of 73 shots for a .932 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average, while delivering a potential season-saving victory Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

It's great to see Hart trusted in big games despite being 20 years old and coming off an ankle injury. Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon hasn't shied away from playing Hart, no matter the matchup or circumstances.

That's how it should be. Hart is the future and now is the time to get him ready.

• Now that the Flyers are done with the Penguins, the rival becomes one of their best friends. 

A team to keep the closest eye on is the Hurricanes (85 points), who currently hold the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot, ahead of the Blue Jackets (84 points, in the second wild-card position), Canadiens (81 points) and Flyers (78 points).

The Flyers don't play the Blue Jackets again, whereas they still have two matchups left with the Hurricanes. Carolina also has to play the Penguins twice, the Capitals twice, the Lightning once and the Maple Leafs once.

Yes, the Flyers will be pulling for Pittsburgh there and should have the Hurricanes in their sights if they want to squeak into the playoffs.

• Sunday night was one of countless examples of Claude Giroux's quiet leadership.

Giroux could not partake in morning skate because he was under the weather and deemed a game-time decision.

He ended up gutting it out, playing 23:33 against the Penguins and finishing as a plus-2. In his four matchups with Pittsburgh this season, Giroux scored four points (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-4 in 24 minutes per game.

Gordon told reporters at PPG Paints Arena that Giroux was able to eat a little bit of food during the day and got an IV before the game.

"When you think about a guy being able to feel as bad as he did this morning that he couldn't come to the rink — and you know how much he loves being at the rink — it was pretty impressive," Gordon said Sunday night.

Teammates look up to this stuff.

Not long ago, Giroux took a power-play adjustment in stride when Gordon and assistant coach Kris Knoblauch decided to roll with five forwards, which moved the captain out of his usual left circle.

That morning, before the Jan. 14 game, Giroux was the first player on the ice to get extra reps in from the opposite side, not as friendly of a spot for a righty-shot player. 

Giroux's drive at 31 years old is something else. And his teammates see it.

• A prospect who doesn't draw as much publicity as others accomplished an impressive feat last weekend.

Isaac Ratcliffe, a 6-foot-6 winger taken in the second round of the 2017 draft, scored his 50th goal of the season, tied for fifth best in the OHL.

The 20-year-old will be a player to watch next season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. He's particularly intriguing because his size belies his skill and soft hands.

"When I was younger, it was a big thing that I used to work on at the end of practice or the end of a skill session," Ratcliffe said last summer. "It was a big thing I liked to work on, a guy my size, you don't usually see that and I wanted to prove guys wrong. I can bring any sorts of items to the table and I really wanted to show that I could bring my hands, as well.

"You see a big guy like myself, 6-5, 6-6-plus, and you see a guy, usually a little loose on his feet or his hands are a little stiff, but I like to show that I can skate, as well, and use my hands, be deceptive coming into the zone or coming out of the zone."

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Flyers' Stanley Cup drought is taken to another level in Pittsburgh

Flyers' Stanley Cup drought is taken to another level in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — Apparently, Sunday was still a day to celebrate for Penguins fans.

Regardless of another gut-wrenching, last-minute overtime loss for the Penguins to their hated cross-state rival, a certain radio talk show host wanted Pittsburgh fans to wallow in the Flyers' misery.

Mark Madden pointed out in his column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Sunday’s game against the Flyers marked the 16,000th day since the orange and black won their second Stanley Cup championship.

And for that, apparently Penguins fans should be in a celebratory mood, as he wrote, "But Sunday is a day to celebrate, not worry. The Philadelphia Flyers visit PPG Paints Arena, and it will be exactly 16,000 days since the Flyers last won the Stanley Cup."

The 16,000-day drought inspired Penguins fans to unfurl a banner in the upper deck, and it even caught the attention of NBC play-by-play great Mike “Doc” Emrick, who referenced the 44-year drought during the second period of Sunday’s telecast.

But Madden’s personal vendetta with the Flyers and their followers caught the attention of Flyers radio host Jason Myrtetus, who exchanged Twitter jabs with the Pittsburgh shock jock.

The two radio hosts started their online feud a few hours prior to Sunday’s game (NSFW below).

Madden, who doesn’t hide his love for the Penguins, ended his column by saying, “That’s a lot of days. Many more will follow.”

Not if the Flyers keep beating the Penguins in overtime.

Not if Carter Hart plays like he did Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena. 

Perhaps Madden also needs to be reminded that Philadelphia’s Eagles and Phillies have both won championships much more recently than Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates.

Then again, their misery doesn’t exactly register on Philly’s radar.

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