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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2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

2020 NHL playoffs: Phase 2 date set in plan to resume season

The NHL has targeted Monday of next week as the start of Phase 2 in its plan to resume and finish the season.

Phase 2 permits players to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

Below is a statement Thursday night from the NHL:

Beginning June 8 — subject to each club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol — clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice). Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning. Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp.

All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately. The NHL and the NHLPA continue to negotiate over an agreement on the resumption of play.

Here is the NHL's detailed protocol for Phase 2. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August an option.

The NHL on Thursday also announced further details on the 24-team return-to-play format, which looks good for the fourth-seeded Flyers.

Players and permitted personnel returning to Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, could be an important step toward the club finishing its 2019-20 resurgence.

"This is obviously something a little different, but we’ve got a lot of experience," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in late April. "I’m very confident that we can get something together that’s going to be very efficient for the players, very efficient to get our team ready and hopefully that’s what happens.”

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' chances look even better now in 24-team format

The Flyers' outlook for the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format appeared to improve Thursday.

The 2020 playoffs will consist of reseeding after every round instead of a bracket style. The NHL and NHLPA also agreed that each round will feature best-of-seven series following the best-of-five qualifying round.

How is this a good thing for the Flyers? As the fourth and final seed in the round-robin tournament, they can only improve their standing, which we already knew. The Flyers have a chance to climb as high as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and can't fall any lower than their current spot at No. 4.

But the reward of being the No. 1 seed was uncertain as the league was still determining the whole reseed vs. bracket dilemma. On paper, the top seed would not have been as attractive in a bracket format given it would face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup no matter what. Now, the No. 1 seed will face the lowest remaining seed to prevail after the qualifying round. So say the 12th-seeded Canadiens upset the fifth-seeded Penguins, the top seed will face Montreal. Whereas in a bracket style, the fourth-seeded club would have benefitted from such a situation by facing the lowest-seeded Canadiens, while the No. 1 seed would face a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

The Flyers are truly in a no-lose situation. They already have their bye and getting the No. 1 seed means a better matchup now. If the Flyers do well in the round-robin tournament, they climb. If they struggle, they stay put. Not a bad spot at all. And there's no reason they should dislike their chances against the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals.

The bracket style would have made for more parity and drama, particularly in a betting aspect. But the league and its players have also stressed keeping the integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ultimately, the top seeds should be rewarded for their work in the regular season and be given the best possible matchups.

Here are the East's qualifying-round matchups and seed Nos. 1-12.

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

1. Bruins
2. Lightning
3. Capitals
4. Flyers
5. Penguins
6. Hurricanes
7. Islanders
8. Maple Leafs
9. Blue Jackets
10. Panthers
11. Rangers
12. Canadiens

For the timeline of a possible resumption and the decisions still to be made, click here.

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