Jakub Voracek

Flyers push winning streak to six games, eye possible Metro title

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The Flyers improved their winning streak to a season-best six games on Sunday, beating the Rangers in a home-and-home series. After an emphatic 5-2 win on Friday, the Flyers took care of the Rangers 5-3 on Sunday.

After falling behind 5-1, the Rangers made a late game of things, but the Flyers were in control of most of the contest.

Philly is suddenly seeing all sorts of possibilities open up with this hot stretch. In improving to 15-4-1 in their last 20 games, they’ve progressed from merely trying to make the playoffs to loftier dreams.

Flyers now on a season-best winning streak of six games, have a chance at Metro title

With the Penguins mired in a six-game losing streak (their worst stretch in more than a decade), the Flyers stand a real chance of earning some home-ice advantage. Actually, Philly’s ambitions don’t need to end there.

If things fall the right way, the Flyers could conceivably grab the Metropolitan Division title. They can’t rest on their laurels, though, as the Metro battles look tight:

Metro 1 – Capitals: 84 points in 64 games played (39-19-6)
Metro 2 – Flyers: 83 points in 65 GP (38-20-7)
Metro 3 – Penguins: 80 points in 64 GP (37-21-6)

Wild card 1 – Islanders: 78 points in 64 GP (35-21-8)

Philly’s power play put Sunday’s game out of reach. They operated with speed, too, scoring 29, 33, and five seconds into man advantages. Special teams was indeed special for the Flyers on Sunday, at least before they took their foot off the gas. Derek Grant scored the game’s lone even-strength goal.

Carter Hart looked pretty good in gaining just his fourth road win of 2019-20. (More on that strange disparity of home vs. road work here.)

Five different Flyers scored goals on Sunday, showing off the team’s improved depth. Jakub Voracek dealt a lot of the damage, collecting two points to give him six in these past two contests vs. the Rangers. The Flyers have scored at least four goals in every contest of this six-game winning streak.

The Flyers face a fascinating test in the Metro-leading Capitals on Wednesday, with coverage on NBCSN.

Tough times for Rangers, and a rough afternoon for Henrik Lundqvist

With Igor Shesterkin injured, the Rangers will need to call upon Henrik Lundqvist here and there if they hope to continue their improbable playoff push.

Chances are, if they keep it going, Artemi Panarin (two assists) and Mika Zibanejad (two goals, one assist) will continue to drive New York’s success. They certainly authored some of the Rangers’ best moments on Sunday, but the two stars need help — including from a fading former star.

Sunday represented an increasingly rare start for Lundqvist, and it showed. Of course, the Rangers team crumbled in front of him, but it couldn’t have been much of a confidence-booster for “King Henrik.”

People will wonder if the Rangers should have taken Lundqvist out after the Flyers built a 3-0 lead after the first period. After all, such decisions are often made as much to “send a message” to a team, rather than reflect on poor goaltending.

The Rangers need to make every stretch count, so these two regulation losses to the Flyers certainly sting.

That said, New York deserve at least a B+ after passing a bunch of difficult tests. They played eight of their past 10 games on the road before this sound Sunday stomping. Looking at the bigger picture, going 8-3-0 in a road-heavy stretch is pretty impressive overall.

Sunday wasn’t the greatest way to begin an important four-game homestand, but they need to shake it off. Lundqvist especially so.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBC: Flyers look to remain red-hot vs. Rangers

Flyers red-hot in 2020 Rangers preview
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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For most of 2019-20, it looked like the Flyers would battle for a wild-card spot. Following some recent red-hot play, the Flyers might be able to aim even higher. Beating the Rangers on NBC on Sunday could strengthen their unlikely hold on the second seed in the Metro.

Could the Flyers actually pull this off against the plummeting Penguins? Such a thought is increasingly reasonable as Philly is in the middle of a five-game winning streak (while Pittsburgh lost its sixth in a row on Saturday).

Even if the Flyers merely settle for getting back in the playoffs, they’re looking more and more like a tough out.

More on the Flyers being red-hot for most of 2020

Most obviously, the Flyers hope to improve upon what is currently a five-game winning streak. Jakub Voracek reflected on Philly’s hot ways after collecting four assists in the Flyers’ 5-2 Friday victory against these same Rangers.

“We’re not there yet, but I think if we’re going to continue to play the way we do, we can make a run,” Voracek said, via Dan Rosen of NHL.com. ” … Everything has to be clicking. It’s clicking right now. We just have to make sure it’s clicking in a month and a half.”

The Flyers’ winning streak only begins to explain how red-hot they are. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers boast an impressive 15-5-1 record, outscoring opponents 77-53.

Gaining at least one round of home-ice advantage could be a real boon for this team, in particular. The Flyers are scary at home (23-5-4) while being merely middling on the road (14-15-3) so far this season.

Carter Hart probably displays the most dramatic disparity. The 21-year-old looks all-world at home in 2019-20, going 18-2-2 with an outstanding .941 save percentage. On the road, he turns into a sub-backup pumpkin (3-10-1, .855).

One would assume that some of those numbers are coincidental … but maybe a quirky trend could perpetuate itself? For all we know, the difference between the Flyers winning or losing a close potential playoff series could come down to who was at home in a Game 7.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12 P.M. ET ON NBC]

Outlasting opponents

An 82-game NHL regular season is a serious grind. Smarter teams should find ways to preserve players — particularly prominent ones — for playoff battles and other bigger games.

It sounds like Flyers coach Alain Vigneault is paying such arguments some mind. James van Riemsdyk mentioned that he’s felt fresher than he has in years, as this great in-depth feature from NBC Sports Philadelphia notes.

Combining that “sports science stuff” with possibly possessing better skaters might explain the Flyers’ recent surge, not to mention how strong they are at closing out games. That NBC Sports Philadelphia piece points out that the Flyers have generated 79 third-period goals, managing a +25 differential.

“I think the way we skate. I think we’re skating really good and that’s why we’re winning a lot of games because we outskate the other teams,” Voracek said on Thursday. “The starts are so-so, the first periods are so-so, the other teams have a lot of energy, but the second and third periods, I think we’ve been really strong all season long.

“That’s really important for us, when it’s going down to the wire, we can be confident about winning the game.”

A hard-skating, open-minded team that’s hard to beat at home? The Flyers are sounding more and more like an opponent others want to avoid. We’ll see if that pattern holds against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBC will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Voracek leads Flyers to fifth straight win; Wild remain in wild-card race

Kevin Hayes #13, Jakub Voracek #93, and Scott Laughton #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Voracek dished out four helpers in the Flyers’ 5-2 win against the New York Rangers Friday. Philadelphia picked up their NHL-leading 23rd home victory and improved its current winning streak to five games in addition. Voracek had several pretty passes throughout the evening to set up his teammates. In the opening period, he fed Sean Couturier while Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith broke his stick and was unable to break up the pass. Late in the second period and early in the third, Voracek helped Claude Giroux score twice to seal the victory in favor of Philadelphia. All of a sudden, the Flyers only trail the Washington Capitals by three points for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

2) Alex Stalock, Minnesota Wild

The odds were stacked against them, but the Wild are not giving up on their pursuit of a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stalock made 24 saves and picked up his fourth shutout of the season as Minnesota blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-0. Stalock has quietly put together an impressive season with an 18-9-4 record, 2.60 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Only two points separate the Wild from the top wild card spot in the west.

3) Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche

With Mikko Rantanen sidelined, the Avalanche need more offensive production from everyone in the lineup. Jost stepped up with two goals as Colorado defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 and extended its winning streak to five games. The first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Draft opened the scoring 6:34 into the first period when his shot whizzed past Anton Forsberg. Jost took a bouncing puck away from Jake Gardiner prior to the goal. He gave the Avalanche a two-goal lead when he tucked a shot past Forsberg halfway through the middle frame. Colorado has two games in hand on the division-leading St. Louis Blues and only trail by three points. Home-ice advantage in the Western Conference will be awarded to the eventual winner of the Central Division.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • Pavel Francouz made 45 saves and would be in the Calder Trophy conversation if not for the outstanding play of defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes.
  • Teuvo Teravainen scored twice in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 loss and Sebastian Aho extended his point streak to 14 games.
  • Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala each recorded a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild won their third straight game.
  • Jason Zucker recorded two goals but the Penguins fell in regulation for the fifth consecutive game.

Highlights of the Night

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog delivered a pretty cross-ice pass to set up Samuel Girard for the third-period go-ahead goal.

Artemi Panarin extended his point streak to 12 games with this jaw-dropping stretch pass to set up Jesper Fast.

Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy converted this slick deke to even the score at 1-1.

Giroux pushed the Flyers lead to two goals with this one-timer that clanked off the crossbar before finding the back of the net.

Stats of the Night

https://twitter.com/PR_NHL/status/1233588561666039809

Scores

Philadelphia Flyers 5, New York Rangers 2

Minnesota Wild 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

Colorado Avalanche 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Buffalo Sabres 2

Anaheim Ducks 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Flyers blank Penguins, keep pace in playoff race

The Flyers need to make the most of each game to stay in the playoff race. Philadelphia’s 3-0 win against the Penguins wasn’t pretty — except where it needed to be.

Flyers hang in the playoff race

Actually, from a defensive standpoint, it was pristine. Brian Elliott only needed to make 19 saves for his first shutout of 2019-20. The Flyers asserted overall, generating a 30-19 shots on goal advantage.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin managed just three SOG in this one. Both teams eye the All-Star break, so maybe there was the hockey equivalent of “Senioritis.” Philly hit the books enough to get the shutout, though.

An empty-net goal exaggerated the score, but 3-0 felt fitting for how well Philadelphia played. Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk scored all of the goals the Flyers needed, while Justin Braun iced it with the ENG.

The Flyers improved their record to 27-17-6 (60 standings points in 50 games played). The bad news is that, if the playoffs began today, the Flyers would be out. The better news is that Philly didn’t lose ground in what could be tight races for the final East wild-card spots. The Hurricanes won their Tuesday game, so Philly risked losing ground:

Flyers playoff race
via NHL.com

Flyers, Penguins have been playing well lately

Again, the Penguins failed to impress in this one. They were the schoolkids staring at the clock at the end of class.

The Flyers earned this win, even if it was the equivalent to providing a boring lecture (or clogging passing lanes). Alain Vigneault’s group won four of its last five games.

Overall, the Penguins have been loading up points. This loss ended a two-game winning streak, and Pittsburgh is now 6-2-0 in its last eight.

The Penguins and Flyers meet again in Pittsburgh when their schedules resume. Maybe they’ll have to share reports about how they spent their All-Star breaks/summer vacations?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Voracek nets OT beauty; Blackhawks win in Montreal

Philadelphia Flyers' Jakub Voracek, left, gets the puck past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington
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Three Stars

1) Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

It was almost a disastrous night for the Flyers when they allowed two goals in the third period to force overtime. But, 3:33 into the extra session, Voracek showed great patience when he completed a clever toe drag and waited for an opportunity to seal the victory for the Flyers. The Czech winger has 10 points in the previous nine games.

2) Zack Smith, Chicago Blackhawks

Smith has not had a profound impact on the Blackhawks since being acquired in July from the Ottawa Senators. But the gritty forward recorded two goals in the opening period of Chicago’s 4-1 win in Montreal. Drake Caggiula took a puck from behind the net and found Smith alone in the slot just over five minutes into the game. A few minutes later Smith redirected a puck to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 advantage. With another year remaining on his contract at $3.25 million, it will be tough for Chicago to find a suitor at the NHL trade deadline.

3) Drake Caggiula, Chicago Blackhawks

The 25-year-old forward tallied a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ third consecutive win. Caggiula created two separate turnovers that generated goals for Chicago. He helped set up Smith for the opening goal when he took the puck from Montreal’s goalie behind the cage. Then he helped seal the victory when he stole a puck from Jordan Weal and fired a wrist shot past Charlie Lindgren.

Highlights of the Night

Voracek dangled around Alex Pietrangelo before firing a wrist shot past Jordan Binnington to close out the game.

Justin Faulk received credit for the goal, but Alexander Steen showed great vision when he fired a cross-ice pass to set up the power-play tally.

Stat of the Night

Scores

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Montreal Canadiens 1

Philadelphia Flyers 4, St. Louis Blues 3 (OT)

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.