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November 10, 2017

In short order, Flyers’ top line has found magic touch

It was a little tough to tell whether or not the Flyers’ beat the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center by the expression of “Stone Cold” Dave Hakstol. 

Outwardly, the Flyers’ coach’s stoicism was on display in explaining the Flyers’ 3-1 victory. Inwardly, Hakstol must have to be doing handstands, summersaults and backflips over the decision to piece together the line of Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux. 

Right now, about a month into the season, the trio is arguably the best line in the NHL, rivaled by only Tampa Bay’s Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who have combined for an NHL-high 71 points (29 goals, 42 assists). Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have combined for 60 points (23 goals, 38 assists) for the Flyers, who are 8-6-2. 

In a very short period of time, the new line seems to have built that unspoken way of communication, which could come with a look, or a head bob, or a stick lift. They always seem to know where the others are, sometimes without even seeing them. 

And against the Blackhawks on Thursday night, Voracek, Couturier and Giroux thoroughly outplayed one of the most potent NHL lines in Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, finishing a combined plus-9 while Chicago’s famous trio was a combined minus-5. 

Voracek, Couturier and Giroux each scored one of the Flyers’ three goals. Voracek and Giroux also finished with two assists each.

“Three good players working hard together,” Hakstol deadpanned when asked about the play of his top line. “That’s the rhythm and that’s the reason. I mean those three guys have worked hard from Day One together. They compete in both directions. There was a real mindset from the guys that they were ready to go. 

“Obviously, those guys went out and made some plays. They were big goals for our hockey team. I don’t know if I really had expectations [about the VCG line]. I certainly didn’t think of numbers or anything like that. We all felt that they could be a good line together, and they’re showing it. They continue to work at getting better as a line, and that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’ve done that, and obviously they were important for us.” 

Hakstol also admitted there is a chemistry between them. 

Couturier, the lynchpin of the line, seems to think so too. 

“It’s starting to be a little more natural finding each other out there,” said Couturier, who looks certain to break his career personal-record of 15 goals during the 2014-15 season. “We know where we’re going to be and what the other guy is thinking. It’s getting better and better, but like I’ve been saying, there is a lot of hockey left. 

“This is an 82-game season and there are a lot of wins to get. That was a big matchup, a big challenge for us [against Chicago]. We’re willing to go up against anyone. We feel pretty confident about our game right now. We can outscore any line or any pairing. We just have to keep going. I’ve been saying, I have two of the best in the league now, ” 

Giroux, who confessed there may have been some added motivation against the Sharp-Toews-Kane line, believes that familiarity has helped the VCG line grow.

“I think that was [Sharp-Toews-Kane]’s first game playing together,” Giroux added.

 It appears that they some catching up to do if they have any plans on matching the production of the Flyers' top line.

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