The Flyers try to keep positive during their layoff
Jakub Voracek has no goals through eight games so far this season. (USA Today Images)
Through the first seven games of the Flyers' fractured season, Jakub Voacek managed only one shot on goal in five of them.
This is an elite player who is supposed to get three or four shots a night playing with Claude Giroux, right?
Even former Flyers enforcer-turned-coach Craig Berube, on his worst night on the ice, was able to get a single shot in a game. It’s not that hard.
In his eighth game last week against Pittsburgh, Voracek had three shots. Maybe he’s about to wake up.
Like so many others on the Flyers, Voracek still hasn’t scored a goal and has only three assists this season, which is another reason for the Flyers' 1-7 record.
“I don’t want to make excuses that I got hurt in the preseason, because someone could say [that’s why] I don’t have a goal yet,” Voracek said. “Obviously, I can be way better. I have three secondary assists in eight games.
“Everybody would have higher expectations. I’m trying to get to that level where I was in the preseason. I think these [practice] days will help me.”
So much was expected of him. After all, the 24-year-old Czech had a career season in 2011-12 -- the last full NHL season before the lockout -- with 18 goals and 49 points. Those numbers led to him receiving a four-year, $17 million contract from the Flyers that July.
While no Flyer had a great lockout year overall, every player was expected to come into camp in decent shape and ready to play at a high level. Not game shape, but decent shape. Voracek, who had a car accident in Europe but didn’t suffer any major injuries, came back in less-than-ideal shape after spending most of the offseason in Montreal.
His conditioning level drew some ire from the coaching staff and management.
To compound matters, he then suffered a back injury in preseason, which further set his conditioning behind schedule.
“It’s tough to say,” Voracek said. “I felt good in preseason. I played the game and I felt it was like I felt last year. I don’t think I came in unprepared. But when you don’t practice for 10 days, you feel it a little bit.
“It’s not an excuse. Everybody got banged up a bit. Ninety percent of our players have bruises over the games. It’s something I try to get better at. This week is very important to us. We can get some workouts and some skating which normally you don’t get when you play every other day.”
Since last Friday, Berube has skated the Flyers hard and he has one more practice left for Wednesday before the Rangers game.
Voracek is not the only player lacking in skating conditioning. Most of the team lacked it, as well, because of a poor training camp. The players say this week’s hard on-ice workouts are just the tune-up they needed.
“That’s what you gotta do,” Voracek said. “The NHL is a fast game today. If you don’t skate fast, you can’t keep up with the games. It’s hard to say if we came out [of camp] unprepared. We got to get it back. We’re skating hard in practice. It’s a good thing and it’s only going to help us.”
If Voracek is going to get his game in gear, he needs to start shooting more off the fly. On Tuesday, Berube demoted him from the top line.
Instead of skating with Claude Giroux, he’s on a brand new unit with Tye McGinn and center Brayden Schenn.
Giroux is centering Michael Raffl and Vinny Lecavalier, who practiced with the full team for the first time since being injured against Phoenix on Oct. 11.
Voracek said last week that he felt this club is badly lacking confidence all-around, especially, when it comes to finding ways to win games in the last period.
He went on to state that it’s been a problem for two years now, that the team’s mindset had changed from going onto the ice in the third period feeling confident of a win, to going onto the ice dreading something bad would prevent a victory.
All of this, he and others have stated, is related to the Flyers' inability to score goals. They have been outscored, 12-2, in the third period thus far.
In other words, confidence is lacking everywhere.
“Yeah, of course, you don’t score the goals, that’s what happens,” Voracek said. “That is what happened to everyone. No matter how good you are. If you have a slump, if you don’t score the goals, and hit a couple posts, miss a couple open nets, lose three or four games in a row by one goal or get scored on an empty net goal, it kind of drags you down.”
This week’s drills have been uptempo. Players are smiling, joking and don’t appear to be stressed out. They’ve had time to relax and lighten their grips on sticks.
“I feel like a 10,” Voracek said of his personal ready-meter. “I don’t play like a 10, but I feel like 10.”
He was laughing.