Jakub Voracek

Is Voracek right in saying the Flyers ‘choked?’

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All too often, when an NHL team fails, people learn the wrong lessons. That can be troubling for many reasons, most pressingly: that if they don’t realize why they failed, they could be doomed to make the same mistakes.

To some extent, it doesn’t seem like Jakub Voracek totally understands what happened with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018-19, or maybe he’s simply too close to everything to truly process it all. Emotions run high, and as we’ve seen before with Voracek, he often doesn’t mask those emotions.

(Hey, at least Voracek isn’t running his team while taking the wrong lessons. Looking at you, Bob Nicholson, who blamed Tobias Rieder for the Oilers’ failures. Consider Edmonton Exhibits A-Z in always trying to treat symptoms instead of the disease.)

While reflecting upon the Flyers’ season, Voracek said he doesn’t want to take anything away from it, and told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi that they “choked.”

“We had a good push, but unfortunately, anytime we got close — three points, five points — and we played those big teams in front of us [in] those four-point games, we choked,” Voracek said. “We couldn’t find a way to win those big games, and that’s why we are where we are right now.”

The painful reality is that, frankly, the Flyers probably weren’t good enough to “choke.”

Instead, they’ve straddled that line between good and bad where their fates often boil down to the whims of luck.

Personally, it’s most instructive to go back to two phases of the Flyers’ season:

To start the season, the Flyers were a pretty strong possession team, finishing in the top 10 in various metrics (including controlling high-danger chances) by Natural Stat Trick’s measures. Amusingly, they were one of the absolute weakest teams by those same measures during their hot streak.

The differences, then, were some combination of Carter Hart and luck.

PDO combines a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage, giving you a handy (if broad and imperfect) snapshot of a team’s luck. Early on, the Flyers suffered from lousy goaltending and were shooting at a middle-of-the-pack rate. During their hot streak, they were the second-luckiest team in the NHL, and while Hart’s goaltending factored in, their 9.98 percent even-strength shooting percentage ranked second in the NHL.

Long story short, the Flyers have been an unlucky team with shabby goaltending, and then surged when they were getting all the bounces and all the stops.

Breaking: that was always unsustainable.

The question, then, becomes: how can they fix things for next season. Voracek’s comments to Carchidi are a good starting point … because it’s not necessarily an easy fix.

“Tough to say. It’s not my decision,” Voracek said. “I’ve got to prepare myself in the summer and come in here in shape and be a better player, more experienced. Hopefully, we won’t have to focus on digging ourselves out of a hole by December.”

Indeed, it really is tough to say. But maybe there are a few things the Flyers can do.

Getting the coaching situation right is a great start. Should they stick with Scott Gordon, or might they try to go bold and aim for Joel Quenneville?

For all of the good things Hextall did as GM – particularly cleaning up the enormous salary cap messes that stemmed from his predecessors going big all the time – maybe he was too stagnant in certain areas. Hextall didn’t pull the trigger on two key decisions: waiting too long regarding Carter Hart, and waiting too long to move on from Hakstol.

Would the Flyers be in a different spot if the team zigged instead of zagging with those two decisions?

Ultimately, such questions are only hypothetical, so it’s crucial to get the next decisions right.

Basically … they better not choke.

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.

Flyers’ Voracek to appeal two-game suspension

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Jakub Voracek’s feelings on being suspended two games by the NHL for his hit on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk Saturday night were summed up in five simple emojis:

Voracek was assessed a major for interference. Boycuk did not return to the game and has been ruled out of the Islanders’ game on Monday against Columbus.

The Philadelphia Flyers forward is taking his displeasure with the Department of Player Safety one step forward by appealing the two-game ban, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Voracek will travel to the NHL’s offices in New York City on Tuesday afternoon in hopes of having the suspension reduced to one game or wiped out entirely.

“He’s pointing at me like it’s WrestleMania or something,” Voracek said after the game. “Come on, it’s a hockey game. 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.”

“I don’t think Jake has any wrong intentions there. He’s trying to protect himself,” said Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon. “The guy is sprinting in on him hard. It’s not like it was a 50/50 puck, where he’s waiting for him to come to him and step into him. He clearly sees that the guy coming and he’s trying to brace himself.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will hear Voracek’s appeal. The process will stop after Bettman’s decision as only suspensions of six games or more allow the player to appeal to a neutral arbitrator.

Voracek will remain out through the duration of the two-game suspension as he appeals.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

Sabres’ Eichel, Flyers’ Voracek facing hearings after Saturday hits

Sportsnet
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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will be busy on Sunday.

Forwards Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers will be asked to explain their actions in their respective games on Saturday after two massive hits.

Eichel’s came in the second period of a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. He and Carl Soderberg were chasing down a loss puck in the neutral zone when Eichel took his shoulder and laid it square into Soderberg’s chin, forcing the latter to leave the game temporarily.

Eichel was given a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play, which can be seen here around the one-minute mark:

Eichel had enough, he admitted after the game.

Nikita Zadorov drilled him in the first period (a hit you can see from the beginning of the above video) after an offside whistle had already been blown.

“He hits me after they (bleeping), excuse my language, blow the whistle,” Eichel told the Buffalo News following in the game. “That’s whatever.

“I thought he was just reaching. I don’t know. I’d have to look at it, to be honest with you. I’m trying to protect myself. It’s a physical game. I think he’s going to deliver a hit to me.

“It seems like they were taking runs a little bit at times. If I’m going to be at the forefront of it, I might as well push back a little bit. I’ve got to protect myself.”

Eichel has never been suspended.

Meanwhile, Voracek will have to answer for this bit of interference he threw on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk in their game on Saturday.

In a 5-1 game for the Flyers, Boychuk was pinching in to try and snag a loose puck heading Voracek’s way. Instead, Voracek saw Boychuk coming and dropped him with hit, forcing Boychuk from the game and resulting in a five-minute major for interference.

You can be the judge here:

Voracek was far from pleased with the call following the game.

“The explanation I got was if I hit him in the head, it would be a game [misconduct],” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I don’t know why I got five. I try to protect myself, to be honest, maybe the puck was a little further than I thought — I thought the puck was close to me.

“It’s a tough hit. You know, he’s getting off the ice, he’s pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania or something. Pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania. Come on, it’s a hockey game. … He’s the guy that was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year in the end of a game. He’s going to do that? Give me a break.”

Voracek, like Eichel, has no history.


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

Islanders’ Boychuk vows retribution on Flyers’ Voracek after hit

Sportsnet
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Johnny Boychuk made a vow to Jakub Voracek as he was skating off the ice following a devastating interference hit from the latter on Saturday night in Long Island.

“I will get you,” he appeared to mouth at Voracek, who was already in the penalty box for his early third-period transgression.

Moments earlier, Boychuk was pinching in from the point to try and win a loose puck heading in Voracek’s direction. Boychuk never made it to the puck thanks to Voracek, who saw Boychuk coming and laid some nasty interference on him.

The hit itself appeared high and Boychuk’s left shoulder appeared to bounce off the ice, causing him to lay there for quite some time as held it, grimacing in pain.

You can see the hit here and Boychuk’s reaction once he was back up on his feet being helped off the ice.

Voracek was assessed a five-minute major for interference while Boychuk never returned to the game.

Scott Mayfield went after Voracek once his time in the sin bin was up, but it instant melee that ensued mean there was no retribution. Mayfield was handed 10-minute misconduct, rendering his night over with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

The hit was unnecessary at best, with the Flyers up 5-1 in a game they’d end up winning 5-2. Of course, the counterpoint to this is Boychuk was flying in Voracek’s direction and Voracek was just bracing for impact. Either way, there’s a good chance the league takes a look at this one, given the scenario and the injury, right?

Boychuk, providing he’s healthy, will have his chance to seek vegeance as these two teams play each other on March 23 in their final meeting of the season.

UPDATE:


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

The Buzzer: Tkachuk nets first, second NHL goals; Voracek goes off in five-point night

Three Stars

1. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators: Tkachuk scored his first and second NHL goals and recorded his first NHL assist in a 7-4 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. His second goal, as you will see below, was exactly what the Senators wanted when the took the son of Keith fourth overall this past June. Seriously, watch that second goal below. Incredible shot.

2. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers: Voracek’s performance played spoiler to Tkachuk’s breakout night. The Flyers forward had two goals and three assists for a five-point outing. Philly needed that win after getting crushed 8-2 on Tuesday by the San Jose Sharks. Not a bad rebound effort in the second half of a back-to-back.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals: Kuznetsov kept clicking along in Washington’s 5-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final rematch on NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry. Kuznetsov opened the scoring in the first period on the power play and then played set up man on three of the Capitals’ next four goals in the game, including two nifty passes to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Highlights of the night

While Tkachuk’s first NHL goal was about as anticlimactic as it gets, his second goal was nothing short of a beauty.

Kuznetsov and Ovechkin combined for this slick goal. the patience here is exquisite.

Factoids

Scores

Flyers 7, Senators 4

Capitals 5, Golden Knights 2

Coyotes 3, Ducks 2 (SO)


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