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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Not excited about Kevin Hayes? Newest Flyer shows how he can change things ... with time

Not excited about Kevin Hayes? Newest Flyer shows how he can change things ... with time

The listed attendance for the Flyers' preseason opener Monday night was 16,570. The crowd was sparse and that comes with preseason hockey.

Kevin Hayes, the team's most notable offseason acquisition who signed a seven-year, $50 million contract, played his first game in front of the new home fans.

There has been some debate over the level of excitement regarding the 2019-20 Flyers and the addition of Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 27-year-old center that doesn't exactly dazzle across the ice.

"I think the fans should be excited — I think they're excited, some of them might not be too excited — but I feel great," Hayes said last weekend. "This is the best I've ever felt and probably the most in shape, most excited I've ever been in my hockey career."

If he doesn't dazzle, he does just about everything else. The Flyers want to win hockey games again and Hayes brings winning qualities — pretty or not.

On Monday night, he showed his game — the puck protection, the utilizing of his size, the disruptiveness on the penalty kill, the potential on the power play (see observations).

Those traits were why the Flyers wanted Hayes so badly and believe he can be integral to the team contending again — you know, generating excitement.

"I'm not a horrible skater, but I'm not the best skater," Hayes said after the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Islanders. "So I need to get an upper hand somehow and that is the stuff I work on in the summer."

The Flyers need that stuff. They allowed far too many goals last season, far too easily. They surrendered the NHL's third-most markers per game at 3.41 and finished with a minus-37 goal differential. Hayes had a career-high 55 points last season and a career-high 25 goals the year prior. However, he developed a defensive-minded, penalty kill pedigree under Alain Vigneault with the Rangers. Maybe that's not exciting.

"I actually got to the league as not a PK guy," Hayes said. "A.V. put it on me and I challenged myself to become one of the better PK guys in the league and I thought over the last couple of years, I've done that. I try to outsmart the other five guys."

Hayes did his usual work on the penalty kill and made an impressive play to set up the Flyers' lone goal. He played with James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, making up a line in which possession is the name of the game.

I like those three and that effort from that line. I expect more and more will come as their timing gets better. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone and didn't get probably as much as they would have liked. 

But the time spent in the offensive zone was good. Their execution is going to get better, but that is a pretty big line. They get pucks in deep and go retrieve it and make the plays that I think are available, just the execution was a little bit off tonight. But if the plays are available, that could be a really good line.

- Vigneault

It doesn't scream excitement, nor does Hayes' style of play.

But if it results in wins, fans will get on board.

It might just take some time.

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Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

BOX SCORE 

Hockey was back in South Philadelphia as the Flyers unveiled head coach Alain Vigneault and center Kevin Hayes at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

The Flyers lost their preseason opener, 3-1, to the Islanders, starting a stretch of four games in six days. They have seven exhibition games overall.

Let's get into some observations from the first one:

• On the Flyers' only goal of the game, the team saw exactly why it was drawn to Hayes. Thanks to his long reach and big frame, Hayes corralled a pass behind him and then shielded his man to eventually ignite the goal.

He found Jakub Voracek, who quickly fed James van Riemsdyk right in front to draw the Flyers even at 1-1 in the second period.

Those qualities are what make Hayes a difference-maker. Maybe it's not flashy, but size and smarts can lead to possession and quality playmaking. The Flyers' front office must have loved that opening goal.

• Speaking of Hayes, he's disruptive out front on the penalty kill because of the aforementioned reach. He can be a workhorse type of player for the Flyers, similar to Sean Couturier and his responsibilities of playing both special teams units.

Both Couturier and Hayes impact the game in all areas. Ideally, the Hayes addition should lighten the load for Couturier, which could make the 26-year-old even better.

• Joel Farabee has another gear and when he changes to it, the 2018 first-round pick really stands out. During the second period, he made an explosive burst to the net with the puck on his stick and nearly scored. Moments later, he impressively took a sharp pass and wrapped it around to a streaking Cal O'Reilly for another scoring chance.

Good stuff from Farabee in his first Wells Fargo Center game action.

• Chris Stewart, with the Flyers on a pro tryout, dropped the gloves in the second period and landed some heavy punches. He's a big dude at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, and general manager Chuck Fletcher knows him well from time together in Minnesota.

The 31-year-old will have to show more than just that to make the club but toughness doesn't hurt when you're aiming for a bottom-six job.

• Fletcher spoke highly about Egor Zamula during rookie camp. There's a lot to like with the 6-foot-3, 172-pound defenseman. He looked cool and comfortable playing alongside Philippe Myers and there's offensive upside, as well.

• German Rubtsov did some good things. The 21-year-old forward can kill penalties and has deceiving offensive abilities. Fresh off a two-goal rookie game, he didn't hurt his chances Monday.

"I saw him at the rookie game and I thought he played well," Vigneault said last week. "He had good pace to his game and good hockey sense."

• Isaac Ratcliffe, who came into camp with an outside shot at a roster spot, seems likely to spend the entire 2019-20 season in Lehigh Valley. His game stood out in junior hockey, but now everyone is bigger and faster at this level.

He's had a tough time showing off his skill because there's less time and space. Still plenty of promise with the 6-foot-6 winger. Scott Gordon and the AHL will be good for him.

• Brian Elliott allowed an early goal but settled in, making eight saves in 30 minutes. He gave way to Alex Lyon, who allowed a Luca Sbisa blast past him for the game's decisive goal. New York's third goal was an empty-netter.

• Travis Konecny has a new contract. When might we see him?

• The new scoreboard is really cool and really big.

• The Flyers and Islanders will square off again Tuesday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (7 p.m., NBCSP+).

The team's game group will skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, at 10:30 a.m., while the non-game groups hit the ice at 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

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