Voracek and Couturier Shine as Flyers Top Blue Jackets in Jeff Carter Bowl, 9-2

Voracek and Couturier Shine as Flyers Top Blue Jackets in Jeff Carter Bowl, 9-2

The talk heading into Saturday night's matchup between the Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets naturally focused on the big off-season trade that sent Jeff Carter to Ohio in exchange for winger Jakub Voracek and a pair of draft picks, one of which was the eighth overall. Sean Couturier was selected with that high pick, and he made the club out of training camp. Voracek was off to a quiet start heading into the game, which Jeff Carter would watch from a suite, still recovering from a broken foot.

Trades aren't won and lost based solely on what each set of players does for their new team, and they especially aren't won based on a single head-to-head matchup. But damn if this didn't at least feel like a statement game as to which side is currently holding the better cards. Voracek, who was criticized by his former coach upon his exit from Columbus, took advantage of the opportunity to not only prove Scott Arniel wrong, but also put a few nails in his coffin. With the Blue Jackets now 2-11-1 after being throttled 9-2 by the Flyers, Arniel might not make it out of the Wells Fargo Center with a job.

Voracek was joined in the scoring by Couturier and a full six other Flyers. Fifteen Philadelphia players would register points in this summary ass kicking.

Below, a look at what went so right for the Flyers, complete with video highlights. So much awesome...

JVRtwork
The home team got off to a fast start, scoring a pair of goals before the 3:10 mark, then added three more to enter the intermission up 5-0. The game had gotten off to a staccato start, with a near goal by Scott Hartnell and three whistles in the first minute of play. Both teams were down a man when James van Riemsdyk, subject of a reported—and emphatically disputed—benching earlier in the week, opened the scoring. The Flyers cycled well with the puck, using the space opened up with two men off the ice, and rookie Erik Gustafsson found JVR with a sneaky pass.

JVR commented after the game that whatever lower-body injury is affecting him is something he'll have to deal with for awhile. The mystery continues, but after watching him play 13:30, scoring a goal and assisting two others, I don't remember seeing it affecting him.

SO CYUT
After the opening goal, Columbus was clearly reeling, and they took another penalty. With the Flyers on the powerplay, Hartnell camped out in front of the net, and Jaromir Jagr threw a pass toward his feet. It didn't make it through to Hartnell, but it did still find the net, as it deflected off of Fedor Tyutin's stick and past a hapless Steve Mason.

MAXIMUS
Max Talbot claimed the Flyers third goal, scoring on a sweet exchange with Voracek. With both forwards coming into the zone hot, Talbot found Voracek with a pass across the slot, and Jake returned the favor with a perfect pass through the defense. Notching his fifth of the season and fourth in five games, Talbot put a nice move on Mason, and temporarily ended the goalie's night.

JAGRESSIVE
The Flyers' fourth goal of the first period came on the strength of some great forechecking by Jagr, who again made Tyutin his bitch, stealing the puck away from him in the corner before throwing it to an open Claude Giroux. G made a fast turn toward the net and put a laser past Allen York.

FIGHTS!
With no legal answer at either end of the ice, the Blue Jackets tried to swing the momentum by dropping the gloves. Derek Dorsett was picking at JVR, and on his next shift, Wayne Simmonds answered the call and gave Dorsett a pretty good beat. A moment later, Cody Bass asked Zac Rinaldo for a go, and the two battled briefly before Bass slammed a half-nekkid Rinaldo to the ice and skated around like he'd just taken down George Foreman.

VORACEK'S REVENGE
Once everyone had their clothes back on, the Flyers put out any fire the Blue Jackets thought they'd ignited with the pair of fights, with Voracek scoring their fifth goal of the period. He sent a floater on goal from the point and it snuck by a screening Eric Wellwood.

Had to feel good to light the lamp and put another nail in the coffin of the coach who had some unflattering words for him after last season. I for one would like to thank Scott Arniel for any fire he may have lit under Voracek's ass. Especially if what we saw tonight ends up being exactly what the Czech winger needed to get going this season.

COOTER TOO
The second period was much like the first, only without quite as much scoring. Couturier scored the Flyers' 6th goal of the night 7 minutes into the frame. Skating up the right circle on a 3-on-1—during a penalty kill—Cooter unselfishly fed the puck back to the trailer Braydon Coburn, who one-touched it right back for the rookie to deposit one past Mason, who had returned for the second period. Amazing finish by Couturier, who had very little angle but played the puck perfectly.

POOR CARTER...
Voracek to end the first, Couturier to start the second… annnnd pan to Carter in a smart suit up in the suite. I don't wish Carter anything but the best, and it was honestly a little painful to see him sitting there watching this. He truly was traded out of a hockey haven to a terrible franchise that could finish with the league's worst record this year. Only a decade left on that deal, too.  

RAPID SUCCESSION
Simmonds joined the scoring party on a brilliant play in tight, going forehand to backhand to beat Mason despite having defensive pressure and not much space.

Moments later, with Lou Nolan still announcing the Simmonds goal, JVR slipped a pass to Matt Carle, who put a shot high over Mason's opposite shoulder. 8-0 Flyers through 40 minutes of play. Riots in the streets of Columbus.

PARADISE LOST, REGAINED
Columbus would unfortunately erase the Flyers' bid for a perfect game, narrowing their lead to a mere touchdown on a Derek Dorsett goal 13 minutes into the third period. That seemed to wake the Flyers out of grind-out-the-game mode for a bit, and Couturier netted his second of the game, fifth of the season, three minutes later. The goal came on a deflected pass from none other than Voracek.

Grant Clitsome (yes, actual real name) was credited with a late Columbus goal, but there wasn't much Bryzgalov could do, as the shot deflected off the stick of Andrej Meszaros and in.

All in all, quite the decisive victory for the Flyers, who thrashed an inferior team for 60 minutes. It as a great response to a lackluster effort against the Devils on Thursday, and everyone contributed.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

NOTES

  • Jake Voracek was named the Bud Light Player of the Game by the CSN telecast, and he certainly had a great night with a goal and two assists. But, with 9 goals on the board for the good guys, you could've thrown a dart at the roster to pick the POG.
  • This was the second time in the last five games that the Flyers have scored eight goals. Fortunately, they weren't woefully bad on defense this time and we got to celebrate the total.
  • Hard to believe, but five of the Flyers skaters were rookies. And, neither were named Brayden Schenn or Matt Read. 
  • One of those rookies, defenseman Erik Gustafsson, was a +6 on the night. Flyers PR notes that the last time a Flyers rookie was plus-6 or ether was in 1984, when both Rich and Ron Sutter were +6 and Thomas Ericsson was a +8. That had to be a hell of a game. Matt Carle narrowly missed equalling Gustafsson's +6, but he was on the ice for the game's final goal.
  • Gus also led all Flyers in ice time with 23 minutes.
  • Jagr's goal in the first increased his streak of seven straight games with a point.
  • Does it seem like I'm frequently apologizing for Bryzgalov on his goals allowed? With all the bounces, deflections, etc. that get on those pucks before they cross the line, it's hard not to.
  • Despite the lopsided score, the Flyers were actually outshot in this one by a 35-33 count. Chalk that up to a similar effect to an NFL team's passing attempts going up when they're down in the second half.
  • In the intro, we mentioned Voracek possibly playing with something to prove. It should be noted that in interviews before and after the game, he dismissed the idea of his harboring ill feelings toward Arniel. He had no interest in addressing the comments, but he was respectful in his words toward the Columbus coach. Stand-up guy.
  • The schedule is quiet this week, which stinks because we want to see some more hockey very soon after that tilt, but with all the injuries, the Flyers could use some recovery time. Next up is the Lightning in Tampa on Wednesday, followed by a trip up to Sunrise, Florida, where they'll play the Panthers on Sunday. I expect those Movember mustaches might be accompanied by a solid tan.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

052716-wch-rosterbestvideo3_1280x720_694622787541.jpg

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

052716_mackanin_slide.jpg

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

052716-wch-rosterbestvideo3_1280x720_694622787541.jpg

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

Flyers captain Claude Giroux has a word of advice for rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the two meet each other as opponents in this fall's World Cup of Hockey.

"The last few weeks, I told him to keep his head up," Giroux said Friday night on a conference call after both players were added to World Cup rosters.

"I'm pretty excited to go on the forecheck against him. It's pretty impressive what this kid has been able to do this year. To see it right beside him, he's got so much potential.
 
"To be on this team will only help him be better."
 
Giroux was named to Team Canada's roster, while Gostisbehere, the NHL's top rookie defenseman, was penciled in on Team North America (see story).

You may recall Giroux was overlooked by Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
 
"That was a little disappointing," Giroux said. "Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go play for them, you hope to get the call. I was a little disappointed for that. To be able to be on this team, I'm excited and I"m ready for the challenge."

Team North America is a unique blend of age 23-and-under players who will compete in the eight-team tournament starting in mid-September.

Whether the veteran athletes competing for other countries take this young stars contingent seriously on the international stage is subject to debate.

"I hope some teams would take us seriously," Gostisbehere said, "because I think we're pretty darn good. It's a different dynamic.
  
“You don’t have the veteran presence per say, but some of the guys on the team have been playing in the NHL for three years already. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also named to the tournament, playing for Team Europe.
 
“I am really surprised and excited,” Bellemare said in a statement. “I am happy that the way I played with the Flyers has helped me get a chance to play in the World Cup for Team Europe. I think this is going to be a celebration of hockey and it is surreal that I get to be in the middle of it.”
 
Both Giroux and Gostisbehere have been rehabbing at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since their hip and abdominal surgeries on May 17.

Bellemare will go into the tournament fully healthy, while Giroux and Gostisbehere will not. Giroux had reservations about undergoing surgery if it meant his exclusion from the tournament, sources said.
 
“The surgery was a little question mark,” Giroux said. “Maybe not so much for me, but for them. I don’t know what they were thinking. The rehab has gone very well right now. There’s no issue as to why I wouldn’t be ready for that tournament.”
 
Gostisbehere is no stranger to serious rehab from surgery. He missed nearly all of the 2014-15 season as a Phantom with a torn ACL in his left knee.
 
“It’s the same sort of rehab I did with my knee,” Gostisbehere said of his current rehab.  “We’re going to keep going down the line knowing something is at the end of the line for us. We gotta really focus.”
 
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which will be announced in late June, said he was humbled by the selection.
 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “The whole format of the tournament is pretty cool to see. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
The Flyers have eight players competing. Chicago has an NHL-high of 12.