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.

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

Phillies conclude miserable homestand with new low as Zach Eflin demoted to Triple A

For a moment on Sunday afternoon, Citizens Bank Park sprung to life as the Phillies strung together five hits in a four-run second inning.

But four home runs off starter Zach Eflin sent the Phillies to another defeat and Eflin to Lehigh Valley.

Eflin was optioned to Triple A following the Phillies' 8-4 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just five innings of work (see Instant Replay)

"His first 2-3 outings were really good," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was keeping the ball down, but his last three, including today, he's elevating his sinker and once you elevate that sinker, it doesn't have the effect that you'd like to have."

The Phillies have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games and handed the Reds their first series win at CBP since Aug. 2006.  

Eflin got off to a rocky start on Sunday with three first-inning singles, allowing one run. He escaped further damage but then proceeded to give up a home run in each of his final four innings. The final home run — Adam Duvall's second on the day — came on an 0-2 pitch and extended Cincinnati's lead to 7-4. All of the Reds' hits off Eflin came on fastballs as their potent lineup feasted on his pitches high in the zone.

Two weeks ago, Eflin's ERA stood at 2.87 as he kept opponents in the ballpark with his hard sinker. However, starting with a May 17 outing in Texas, Eflin has allowed 22 runs in his last 15 innings. He's given up seven homers in his last two starts and at least nine hits in five consecutive outings as his ERA ballooned to 6.13. With Sunday's results, the Phillies were left little choice but to option the 23-year-old righty while he deals with a rough patch.

"There are some things I need to work on," Eflin said. "I need to do a better job of pitching backward, especially in fastball counts. There's a lot of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go down there, work on everything I need to work on and get back as soon as possible."

The Phillies will likely reinstate Howie Kendrick (oblique) off the 10-day disabled list Monday in a corresponding move after the veteran IF/OF completed a four-game rehab stint (see story)

Kendrick could help boost an offense that is scuffling. After a four-run second inning highlighted by Andrew Knapp's 434-foot three-run home run, the Phillies' bats fell silent. They strung together five more hits. However, three double plays and a few untimely strikeouts killed any further rallies.

The Phillies left a potential run stranded on third base in the fifth inning as Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr struck out against starter Scott Feldman, who waded into and out of trouble in five innings of work. Herrera went 0 for 4 with that strikeout, continuing to slump. His average has fallen to .217.

With Kendrick returning, Mackanin indicated he would give Herrera some days off soon to help him relax amid mounting pressure to hit.

"He's scuffling. A couple guys scuffling," Mackanin said. "I'll probably move him down in the lineup. I can't keep him in the two-hole. But he has to fight his way out. 

"We'll see when Kendrick gets here. We're going to have another outfielder. I'm going to mix and match and try to get everybody in there. Kendrick, I'm going to bring along slowly because I want to make sure he's healthy.

"In other words, I don't have a set outfield. I'm going to mix those guys up."

On the infield, Maikel Franco continued his slide on Sunday, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The slugger is hitting .213 this month, just as he did in April, but his power is down with just two home runs. Kendrick, who only played left field in April, played third base while at Triple A, so he could potentially spell Franco as well.

"He hit a ball hard today but he's not giving us consistent at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's searching both physically and mentally. It's not easy for him. I can tell he's down on himself. He's not happy about what's going on."

The Phillies came into this week struggling and were unable to rebound against the Rockies and Reds, losing five of seven. They averaged just 2.42 runs during the homestand.

However, the bigger problem comes in the rotation. The team gave up 5.71 runs per game in their last seven despite a 23 2/3 inning scoreless streak from the bullpen. The rotation's struggles continue to plague the team as they carry the worst record in baseball into Miami for a three-game set starting Monday.

"I certainly expected more out of our starters," Mackanin said. "We've had some issues with Nola's arm and Clay Buchholz going down. Although [Jerad] Eickhoff is going to end up having a good year in my opinion. He's been a little bit hot and cold.

"And Eflin, I counted on him to have a big year this year. I think if he gets himself straightened out down in Triple A, I think he's going to come back strong. But certainly, I can't sit here and say I'm happy with [his performance]."

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Reds 8, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

Zach Eflin allowed a career-high four home runs and the Phillies were outslugged by the Cincinnati Reds in an 8-4 defeat Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have now lost nine consecutive series for the first time since 1997. The loss was their 22nd in 28 games. The Reds, who took two of three, picked up their first series win at CBP since August 2006.

Eflin was roughed up for the third consecutive start. The Reds tagged him for seven runs in just five innings. After three hits led to a run in the first inning, he gave up home runs in each of his last four frames. Following the game, Eflin was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Jeanmar Gomez allowed a solo home run in relief. 

Andrew Knapp gave the Phillies an early lead with a three-run homer during a four-run second inning. However, three double plays stifled the Phillies' offense, which was held scoreless after the second inning. 

Scott Feldman improved to 4-4 with the win for the Reds. The Phils dropped to 17-31 while the Reds improved to 24-25. 

Starting pitching report
Eflin stumbled through five innings, allowing nine hits. He had held opponents to just four homers in first six starts but has now has let up seven in his last two appearances. Over his past three starts, Eflin's been tagged for 22 runs in 15 innings. He's given up at least nine hits in all five May starts. 

A poor sign for Eflin: Only two of his outs came on the ground. The Reds were all over his fastball and scored in each of his five innings. His ERA has gone from 2.81 to 6.13 since May 17.

Feldman labored through a 32-pitch second inning in which he gave up four runs. He settled down afterward with a pair of double plays to get through five innings. The veteran righty struck out the last two batters he faced with a man on third and one out.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia threw two shutout innings, striking out one. Jeanmar Gomez gave up rookie Patrick Kivlehan's second home run of the day in the ninth inning, snapping the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed three hits and the one run in two innings.

Blake Wood, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias each threw shutout innings in relief of Feldman.

At the plate
Manager Pete Mackanin wanted the Phillies to string together 4-5 hits and they did so in the second inning. Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders led off with back-to-back singles before Knapp drove them in with his 434-foot blast. Knapp laid off two high fastballs after falling behind 0-2 and drilled a curveball into the Phillies' bullpen.

Freddy Galvis followed with a double. Even Eflin aided the cause with his first career RBI on a run-scoring single. 

The top two in the order — Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera — went 0 for 8. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Saunders and Aaron Altherr each had two hits while Ty Kelly had a pinch-hit double.

Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Kivlehan combined for five home runs with Duvall and Kivlehan notching multi-hit games. Jose Peraza and Zack Cozart extended their hitting streaks to 13 and 11 games, respectively, in the first inning.

Up next
The Phillies head on the road and begin a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, whom they beat twice in April at Citizens Bank Park.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. — Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 4.28) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-7, 4.82)

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.— Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55) vs. Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40)

Wednesday, 1:10 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34) vs. Dan Straily (3.83)