jakub voracek

The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek has the NHL’s seventh-most assists since the 2013-14 season.

His job description as a playmaker comes with a double-edged sword. Throughout his career, he has been tasked with creating offense. To do so, it requires pushing the envelope — taking risks, making bang-bang decisions and playing instinctually.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When a facilitator like Voracek tries to make plays at a prolific clip, he’s bound to make mistakes. It’s no coincidence the year Voracek set career highs in assists (65) and points (85), he also had his most giveaways (65). That was 2017-18, the Flyers’ best season (42 wins, 98 points) since 2011-12, when the franchise last won a playoff series.

Voracek is in a new system with a new head coach. He and Alain Vigneault are still getting to know each other — from the player’s tendencies to the coach’s style. 

In the third game of the relationship, Voracek was demoted from the first line to the fourth unit during the third period and played his fewest minutes (14:30) since 2015-16. In the fifth game, Voracek climbed from the third line to the second unit alongside Kevin Hayes and Oskar Lindblom after scoring a goal during the first period. He ended up with two goals and an assist during the 6-3 loss to the Oilers, although his final two points came late in the third when the game was out of reach.

“That’s why I made that quick change after the first period where I put him with Haysey and Oskar,” Vigneault said Friday following practice. “I thought his first period was good. He had good vibes, good energy. He was protecting the puck well. For the most part, that for him was a step in the right direction.”

Ultimately, Voracek needs to be himself. The Flyers are better when he’s himself. Over the past five seasons, the Flyers went 59-18-10 when Voracek had a multi-point game. When he’s himself, he’s not overthinking, he’s playing freely — and, yes, he’s playing harder and smarter. Voracek understands there must be a balance between aggressiveness and conservativeness with his playmaking.

And he knows fans might struggle to grasp the intricacies of that balance.

Prior to his three-point effort against Edmonton, Voracek had gone scoreless through the first four games of the season for the first time in his career.

If I play good defense, nobody is going to see that because I don’t produce offensively. If I produce offensively and I still make a couple of mistakes, they’re going to say I’m sh---y defensively. It’s a no-win situation. 

But I think defensively, I was pretty good when you look at those games. But it’s not good enough for me and for the team. I expect more out of myself offensively. And that’s what it takes sometimes, you have to … not take chances, but you have to create more. Obviously with creating more, being on the puck more, there’s a bigger chance you’re going to f--- it up sometimes.

With me right now, I’m 30 years old, I think we’re focusing on helping the team to win the game. If it’s scoring goals, getting an assist, making a good defensive play, focusing on playing good defense — it doesn’t matter as long as we find a way to win.

Confidence often drives Voracek. An important play or big goal can lead to points in bunches from the winger. He has mentioned that word a lot in his time here. Vigneault, Voracek and the Flyers will have to find ways to boost confidence together.

“A lot of it has to do with confidence,” Voracek said. “If you go in, if you don’t produce and if you are careful, it’s hard to gain something. I could still end up with four of five points in the first four games, the chances were there — passing, couple of chances, but it didn’t. If it did, it would be a different story. If you get the goal, if you get an assist, that builds up your confidence little bit.

"Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t good [in those games], either. Especially during the seasons in the past, you can’t have four or five games and end up with one point [and say] your game could be at the top level.

"The funny thing is, when you play well, it’s easy to find the balance because you have confidence.”

As Voracek makes plays, he will also make mistakes.

Is it frustrating when the fans or media only see the mistakes?

“Obviously from upstairs, you see the different perspective of the ice,” Voracek said. “There are different lanes when you have the puck, you see different things. I got here the way I played before and the way I was, I think, doing the right things. But sometimes it’s hard to satisfy everybody, you know what I mean? Especially today, it’s really hard to satisfy everyone. It’s almost impossible in today’s society.”

That’s why Voracek just needs to be himself. There is no perfect balance.

Overthinking in search of it won’t help Voracek or the Flyers.

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Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

BOX SCORE

Connor McDavid and company laced up the burners and blew past the Flyers on Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

The Flyers lost to the Oilers, 6-3, to finish their three-game road trip 0-2-1.

McDavid put on a five-point show to send the Flyers back home 2-2-1 overall. Alain Vigneault's team will look to find good vibes at home after traveling to Boston, New York, Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta, over a span of 24 days (including the final three preseason games).

The Flyers actually had 52 shots to Edmonton's 22. You would have never guessed it.

The Oilers are 6-1-0 and scoring ... a lot.

• If you blinked, you missed McDavid and the Oilers flipping the game upside down. Trailing, 2-1, to start the middle stanza, the Flyers were actually all over Edmonton, putting six of the period's first seven shots on goal. The Flyers had a number of chances to score an early equalizer — maybe the game takes a different turn if they do.

Alas, they did not and McDavid then decided to pounce. The 22-year-old superstar went off for a goal and two assists in fewer than four minutes. Just like that, the Flyers were in a 5-1 hole.

McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal entered with a combined 16 goals in their team's six games — more goals than six NHL teams had in the same number of games or more.

The trio did further damage against the Flyers as McDavid finished with a goal and four assists, Draisaitl two goals and an assist, and Neal an assist.

• Carter Hart had a homecoming to forget. The 21-year-old from right outside of Edmonton (Sherwood Park) allowed four goals on 14 shots. The first two were more than stoppable, the third was McDavid being the best player in the world and the fourth was a power play tally.

Hart was not good and yanked in the second period. Prior to the outing, he had stopped 75 of 80 shots faced in his first three games.

• The first 10 minutes of a game are imperative to any road team in the NHL. The Flyers fell behind early in all three games of the Western Canada swing.

Against the Canucks, they trailed 5:01 into the game. Against the Flames, 1:35 into game. And against the Oilers, 1:13 into game.

The Flyers were one of the NHL's worst first-period teams in 2018-19 with a minus-31 goal differential during the opening stanza. Through five games this season, the Flyers have been outscored 5-2 in the first period. Vigneault needs more early offense to kick his system into gear.

• After going scoreless in the Flyers' first four games, his longest drought to start a season, Jakub Voracek got on the board with a first-period power play goal. He added another man advantage goal and an assist when the game was out of reach late in the third.

The 30-year-old is a player who fuels on confidence as one goal or play can lead to points in bunches. Voracek had 12 multi-point games last season and the Flyers were 9-2-1 in those contests.

They need him to bring this mojo home.

Also, remember when it was a 1-1 game at this point?

• Travis Konecny went scoreless for the first time this season. James van Riemsdyk has 15 shots on net over the past two games but no points to show for it.

• The Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). A loud start in front of the home fans would do wonders for their confidence.

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Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

BOX SCORE

This time, the Flyers had the opposition take it to 'em.

Alain Vigneault's team never had the reins Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The defeat marked the first in regulation for the Flyers (2-1-1), who must shift their focus to salvaging a game on this Western Canada road trip.

The Flames (3-3-1) had their way, outshooting the Flyers, 38-22, and putting the pressure on Brian Elliott.

• The Flyers had difficulty getting the puck up ice, which gave them little chance to play Vigneault's preferred style. When you can't successfully transition the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, there's no shot to play a possession-based game.

The issue wasn't effort. The Flyers just weren't sharp and the Flames were fast, dangerous and all over the puck.

• To make matters worse, the Flyers did not help Elliott, who was making his first start of the season. The first two goals allowed were self-inflicted products. The third was an empty-netter.

Elliott made some tough stops and finished with 35 saves. He gave the Flyers an honest chance on the road. They were problematic in front of him.

• The Flames scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the second period. Five seconds after a faceoff in the Flyers' end, Calgary made it 2-0 when Andrew Mangiapane's shot bounced off Travis Sanheim's stick and past Elliott.

• A bright spot among a not-so-bright performance from the Flyers was Matt Niskanen. He scored his first goal as a Flyer on a delayed penalty in the third period. But the 32-year-old has been even better defensively with his decisions, breaking up scoring chances and moving the puck. He has been as advertised and a major improvement on the blue line.

• Jakub Voracek opened the game on the third line with Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick after a third-period demotion in last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Cannucks. Clearly Vigneault wanted to see smarter decisions — and maybe smarter effort — from Voracek, while James van Riemsdyk played on the first line following a solid performance against Vancouver.

With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, the lines were shuffled in the third period and Voracek saw time with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux but couldn't get much cooking.

Giroux (one assist), Voracek and van Riemsdyk have combined for one point during the first four games. The early drought is uncharted territory for Voracek and van Riemsdyk, who both had previously never gone scoreless through their opening four games of a season.

The good thing is the Flyers know the offense will come from those three and the team is still 2-1-1.

• The Flyers were outmatched in the opening five minutes, when the Flames were a step ahead in every phase and set the tone.

Michael Frolik beat Elliott just 1:35 into the action on an ugly sequence by the Flyers. After Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov misconnected on a pass up ice, Justin Braun failed to clear the puck and then inadvertently tripped Elliott as Frolik blasted his shot.

The Flyers were fortunate to be trailing by only one goal at first intermission. They could have done more than just weather the storm but went 0 for 3 on the power play and finished 0 for 4 overall. They were sluggish and then sloppy.

• The Flyers finish their three-game road trip with the second half of a back-to-back set when they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Edmonton is 5-1-0 and McDavid has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games.

The Flyers are then back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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