Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Before training camp got underway, before the lockout even
started, when we were penciling in names for who might replace Jaromir Jagr on
the Flyers’ top line, Jakub Voracek seemed a favorite. It’s been a long time
coming, but when Voracek was paired with captain Claude Giroux on Monday, the
two of them showcased why many observers thought it to be a logical fit.

Voracek assisted on Philadelphia’s first four goals –
including a near hat trick for Giroux – during a 7-0 dismantling of the New
York Islanders, setting a single-game career high in points in the process.
After getting off to something of a slow start, Voracek has surged out to the
club lead in points with 15.

Not surprisingly, Peter Laviolette is expected to stick with
the same combinations
for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh, opting to cease
the juggling act with his lines coming off the Flyers’ most complete effort of
the season. That means Voracek, Giroux, and Matt Read will have their chance for
an encore against one of the NHL’s best teams to this point.

Obviously the Isles thrashing was just one game, coming
against one of the league’s most porous defenses at that, so we don’t want to
get too far ahead of ourselves on what type of production we can expect.
Then again, Voracek always seemed like he could be a good fit with G.

Right as we were beginning to wonder how much the Flyers and
Giroux missed Jagr, Voracek demonstrated why so many thought he could replace
some of that production. While Voracek is not to be confused with one of the
greatest to ever play the game – so this is pretty much the furthest thing from
a direct comparison – he does possess some similar skills, namely his speed through
the neutral zone and strength on the puck.

What has Giroux’s line lacked early this season? Often times
they’ve experienced some difficulty mounting and sustaining an attack – or skating
the puck into enemy territory and then sustaining that pressure. In a word, Giroux’s
line has lacked Jagr, or at least a Jagr-like presence.

Voracek looks like the player on the roster best suited to
fill that role, which he built a very strong case for on Monday. It doesn’t hurt
he has a keen eye with the biscuit, either – his 12 helpers also tops on the
club – and at 49 points he was one of the Flyers' leading scorers last season,
tied for fourth with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds.

For now it’s a no-brainer. Voracek will stick with Giroux
and see his ice time increase as long as the production continues, which it has been
no matter who he’s been paired with of late. Previously, he and Brayden Schenn
had been developing some chemistry, and Voracek now has 12 points in his last
nine tilts, including three multi-point games.

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The Phillies season in one video: 'Phanatic tries to comfort crying baby'

The Phillies season in one video: 'Phanatic tries to comfort crying baby'

What is there to say about the Philadelphia Phillies?

In doing my usual postgame perusal of the Internet after their 7-2 loss on Wednesday night, I visited Phillies.com to see what kind of "highlights" they could have possibly posted from another crushing defeat at the hands of the Colorado Rockies.

Thankfully, the first thing that caught my eye was a video titled, "Phanatic tries to comfort crying baby."

It was not Larry Andersen in the Phanatic's arms. Nor me.

And that's the Phillies season in a nutshell.

"You gotta question the parenting skills here," John Kruk said on the telecast. And he's right! What kind of parent would raise their kid to be a Philly sports fan?!?

The Phillies now have the worst record in all of baseball. They're 4-20 in their last 24 games. It's their worst start to a season since 1960.

Even the Phanatic doesn't have enough popcorn to mask all the pain.

If you want to read about the upbeat approach Pete Mackanin is taking, go give this a gander.

"In a long season, these things sometimes happen," Mackanin told reporters. "I remember Atlanta, the first half last year, was terrible. They had a real good second half. I believe we just need to get something going. We're going to put something together. I believe that."

That makes one of us.

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

The future of Villanova basketball just got brighter.

Brandon Slater, a 6-foot-6 wing and highly touted 2018 recruit, told Scout.com on Wednesday night that he has verbally committed to the Wildcats.

He later made the announcement on Twitter.

Among the 2018 recruiting class, Slater, a product of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia, is ranked in the top 30 by Scout.com and top 50 by ESPN.com. He's slated as a four-star talent by both media outlets.

Per ESPN, Slater had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse, USC and Virginia Tech. He is Villanova's first commitment for 2018.

"Going up there it just feels like a second home," Slater said, via Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "It gives me a good vibe. It's nothing like all the other schools. I just feel like a Villanova guy. It feels like PVI. It's already home."

Slater and Villanova head coach Jay Wright expressed their excitement on Twitter.