VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek’s self-assessment following Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Devils said a lot about the state of the Flyers right now.
"The first 39 minutes, I played like horses--t," Voracek said (see story). "You guys have got to watch the game a little bit more, you know what I mean? It's not only about points.”
To Voracek’s point, you can’t isolate on every player on every shift without the benefit of reviewing video and breaking down each player’s assignments. Even the players themselves don’t go to such time-consuming lengths.
Against the Devils, Voracek was named the game’s first star following a three-point effort — a goal and a pair of assists — but the bigger question is what constitutes playing well? Voracek also mentioned he played good hockey over the past three games, but the puck just didn't go in.
To that, I would strongly disagree.
Voracek was moved off the Flyers' top line after a subpar effort Thursday against the Blue Jackets in which Dave Hakstol called him out for his failure to backcheck on a 2-on-1 goal that tied the game at 2-2. Voracek also had his pocket picked by Oliver Bjorkstrand, leading to the Jackets' 6-2 goal, and as a result, he finished pointless with a minus-2 rating.
Voracek is just a spoke in an increasingly large wheel that could be sized onto a semi-trailer truck. Claude Giroux’s pass created that turnover in Columbus and led to a goal, and his blocked shot Monday night turned into a breakaway score by the Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog and a 3-0 Colorado lead. Earlier, Sean Couturier failed to collapse on the penalty kill, which quickly turned into an easy tap-in power-play goal to open the scoring (see story).
Through the first nine games of the season, the Flyers' diagnosis is rather obvious. Their best and highest-paid players aren’t performing up to the standards they’ve set for themselves throughout their careers.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov has had a bumpy ride for the past two weeks either mishandling the puck or getting outmuscled along the boards, and after Monday's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche, Wayne Simmonds was asked how the top line could start producing more.
“Personally, myself, I’ve got to be better,” Simmonds said. “Those guys are great players and I’ve got to do a better job of loosening up pucks and things of that nature.”
Simmonds' two-game stint on the top line appears to be over. On Tuesday, the Flyers switched up that trio for a third time by reinserting Travis Konecny on the right wing, where he started for the first two games of the season.
Right now, nothing seems to stick, whether it’s the top forward line or the top defense pair.
To sum up their contributions at even strength, Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Giroux, Couturier and Voracek are a combined minus-23 this season. Through the first nine games a year ago, that same core group was a plus-20.
Who has been the team’s most consistent forward so far this season? Scott Laughton.
Which defenseman has steadily improved over the past few weeks? Travis Sanheim.
While you need guys like Laughton and Sanheim to step up as supplemental contributors, if they’re the Flyers' best players over the course of a long season, then this team is in serious trouble.
“Our chemistry hasn’t been great," general manager Ron Hextall said. "When you start seeing D pairs change and lines change, it’s because there’s no real chemistry there, and the chemistry comes with execution. I’m a pretty patient guy, but things need to start going better here.”