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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Flyers Notebook: Voracek off to fast start

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 29

Nobody was overly concerned when Jakub Voracek didn’t score during the Flyers’ first nine games. In fact, nobody was concerned. That’s because Voracek was playing so well.

Voracek was leading the Flyers in assists before scoring goals this past week against the Senators and Maple Leafs. Not only was he leading the Flyers in assists, but he was leading them in shots on goal. It was just a matter of time until those shots started finding the back of the net.

Voracek broke the ice during Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Senators, and then scored on a gorgeous move against the Leafs. Voracek came down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Claude Giroux. When the defenseman took away the pass, Voracek went around him and made a right-to-left move toward the front of the net before slipping the puck past goalie Frederik Andersen.

In case anyone is unduly concerned that the goals will make Voracek a little more selfish, later in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs he made a beautiful bank pass off the boards from the Flyers’ defensive zone to Giroux on the left wing. Giroux ripped a shot high past Andersen, restoring the Flyers’ two-goal lead.

Passing has become Voracek’s specialty. He is second in the NHL in assists (14) and third in points (16) despite having just two goals. The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos leads in both categories.

Although the Flyers would probably prefer that Voracek’s assists-to-goals ratio be better than 7:1, nobody will complain as long as he keeps playing at a high level.

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COUTURIER EXCELS: Fans may be accustomed to seeing Jakub Voracek piling up points, but that’s not the case with Sean Couturier. But Couturier is tied for eighth in the NHL in goals (seven) and points (13).

But Couturier’s improved offense has not come at the expense of his outstanding defensive play. He is tied for sixth in the NHL in plus/minus rating (plus-10). Although shorthanded situations don’t figure into plus/minus ratings – except for shorthanded goals – Couturier’s defensive excellence was on display Saturday when the Flyers were facing a 5-on-3 situation against Toronto’s terrific power play.

First, Couturier won the defensive zone cleanly, allowing the Flyers to ice the puck. Then he broke up an attempted entry into the Flyers’ zone and sent the puck down the ice. Those two fine plays killed off the 32 seconds remaining in the first penalty without the Maple Leafs even getting set up in the offensive zone during their two-man advantage.

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UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Sean Couturier should be even higher on the NHL leaders list for goals, points and plus-minus ranking. With the goalie pulled during Thursday’s game in Ottawa, Couturier followed up his own rebound in close and put the puck across the goal line with 56 remaining to tie the game. The puck was in goalie Craig Anderson’s glove, but the glove was clearly across the goal line.

But referee Steve Kozari ruled that he had determined the play was dead even though had not yet blown the whistle. He told the video replay officials that he was in the process of blowing his whistle because he lost sight of the puck.

The Flyers lost a goal earlier in the game because it was determined that Jordan Weal had interfered with Anderson. Weal was in the crease when Anderson initiated the minor contract. Weal then quickly left the crease as Brandon Manning was firing his shot, which went past Anderson for an apparent goal. After a replay review, the goal was waived off.

The Manning goal was a judgment call, although it should be noted that Kozari was in perfect position to see the contact between Weal and Anderson and initially seemed to dismiss Anderson’s complaint of interference. On Couturier’s goal, however, there are sections of the NHL rulebook that seem to be in conflict. It all depends on how the ruling is applied.

Although the replay review is intended to get the call correct, it’s clear that there is still a subjective portion of the decision-making process. And I can’t help thinking that in both cases in Ottawa, particularly on Couturier’s tying goal in the final minute, that the decision would have been reversed if the uniforms had been reversed.

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THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART: Brandon Manning hadn’t scored in 52 games, so when his apparent goal was disallowed against the Senators, it had to hurt. But Manning didn’t let the streak continue much longer. He scored the Flyers’ first goal Saturday against the Maple Leafs, jumping up into the play and finishing off a beautiful passing play with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. Manning also assisted on Claude Giroux’s goal that restored the Flyers’ two-goal cushion.

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BATTLE OF ATTRITION: There is no such thing as having too many defensemen. The Flyers have been using six defensemen since Andrew MacDonald was lost for an estimated 4-6 weeks with a “lower body” injury after blocking a shot against the Oilers. Now the Flyers may have lost Shayne Gostisbehere, although the extent of his injury hasn’t been determined yet. Gostisbehere, who leads all NHL defensemen with 12 assists, left Saturday’s win over the Maple Leafs with an “upper body” injury after being driven face-first into the boards on a hit by Leafs forward Leo Komarov.

It’s possible that Samuel Morin’s return to the Phantoms after the season-opening four-game road trip will be short-lived. But that will give the Flyers three rookie and one second-year player in their defensive corps.

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INCONSISTENCY: How was Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas given a major penalty and game misconduct for charging on a heavy hit during the loss to the Senators and the Leafs’ Leo Komarov wasn’t penalized for his hit from behind on Shayne Gostisbehere? Komorov appeared to extend his arms while driving Gostisbehere face-first into the boards from behind.

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PATRICK OUT: Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, has missed the past two games with an “upper body” injury after being drilled into the boards during Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Ducks.

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TOCCHET RETURNS: Former Flyer Rick Tocchet returns to Wells Fargo Center on Monday (7 p.m.) as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are winless this season after 11 games, with their only point coming in an overtime loss.

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UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: The Flyers have already completed their season series with the Ducks and Predators, splitting with the Ducks and losing a pair of one-goal decisions to the Predators. The Flyers will also play the Blackhawks twice within the first nine days of November. Seventeen of the Flyers’ first 21 games are against the Western Conference. In fact, after the road games this past week against the Senators and Maple Leafs, the Flyers don’t play an Eastern Conference team again until a home-and-home series with the Islanders, with Thanksgiving sandwiched in the middle.

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LOOKAHEAD: After Monday’s game against the Coyotes, the Flyers return to the road Wednesday (8 p.m.) and Thursday (8 p.m.) against the Blackhawks and Blues, respectively. Brayden Schenn, whom the Flyers traded on draft day, has three goals and seven assists and, most surprisingly, is plus-7 for the Blues, who are undefeated at home and lead the Central Division. The Flyers will return home to face the Avalanche on Saturday (7 p.m.).

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