Voracek return could get Flyers’ top line back on track

Jake Voracek

Getting a healthy Jake Voracek back in the lineup could give the Flyers’ top line some added spark when the puck drops for Game 1 against Montreal on Wednesday night.

Voracek missed Saturday’s round-robin 4-1 finale win over Tampa Bay due to an undisclosed issue.

On Tuesday, Voracek proclaimed via Zoom call: “I’m healthy and ready to go.’’

That’s probably good news for the No. 1 line, which includes Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux as the Flyers prepare to play the Canadiens in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup opening-round series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

The unit struggled offensively in the three round-robin games, scoring no goals and registering just three assists although it was a collective plus-6. Giroux has yet to register a point.

As he did on Monday, coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Voracek did participate in a full practice on Tuesday.

Defensively, the trio has done some excellent work against star players such as Boston’s Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (in a preseason game).

“Against Boston, I think we played against that line very well,’’ Voracek said. “I don’t think they had that many chances against us (and were held scoreless). We were a little sluggish against Washington but sometimes that happens.

“I think there’s so much depth on the team, there’s no pressure that you have to score every game. It makes you focus on the defense a little bit extra. If we play good defensively, we know we’re going to get our chances offensively. Eventually they’re going to go in.’’

Maybe Giroux and the top line can get their game going against the Canadiens.

“Prior to the stoppage, I think that line was real effective at both ends of the rink,’’ Vigneault said. “They were using their skill and their size, their ability.

“Coming back, I felt their first three games were OK. There’s no doubt, ‘G’ is captain of our team. He wants this team to do well. He wants his legacy to be a positive one.’’

Voracek believes this should be a tightly contested series.

“Every series is going to be different,’’ Voracek said. “We know that (Carey) Price is one of the best goaltenders in the league. So we have to focus on beating him.

“If Montreal didn’t play well, they wouldn’t be here. It’s a good team, they’ve got a lot of fast, young guys. We just have to find a way to eliminate them. Be tight on them and be patient.’’

Couturier’s line probably will see a lot of time against Montreal’s top offensive players, including Tomas Tartar, Nick Suzuki, Phillip Danault, Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher.

The Flyers only allowed Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay one goal apiece in outscoring that trio 11-3. They will try to replicate that success against a speedy Montreal club.

“I think we’ve been playing some good hockey structure-wise,’’ Couturier said. “We’ve been pretty disciplined in that area. We’re doing a lot of good little things.

“Montreal is a team that has a lot of speed and works extremely hard. We’ll have to be ready to play the right way. We’ll have to match their work (level).’’

From a statistics standpoint, there’s plenty of intrigue. The Flyers allowed the fewest shots in the NHL this past season and the Canadiens are shot-happy. Something has to give.

“We’re familiar with Montreal and their style of play and their willingness to throw pucks at the net,’’ Vigneault said. “Create those scrambles in front, so that’s one of the areas that we’ve improved on as the season went on.

“We’re going to be tested, no doubt. Montreal did not beat Pittsburgh by luck. They earned that win. They’re going to be ready.’’  The Flyers haven’t won a playoff series since 2012 and Voracek confirms this is the best chance to break that dubious streak (a franchise record).

“Well, let’s be honest, I think this is the best team since I came to Philly in 2011,’’ Voracek said. “Last year we had a pretty good team but we are really deep this year.

“I think we showed before the stoppage and the last four games, we are capable of beating anyone. (We’re) skating well, checking well. I think we’re going to the playoffs as one of the favorites. It’s a good feeling and I hope we find a way to go all the way because we feel real comfortable with this group.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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