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December 16, 2015

With Voracek, strong first impression for strong second line

After his most productive game of the season, the Flyers’ new left winger was intent on downplaying his performance. Jakub Voracek scored his second goal of the season and added two helpers in a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina, but the same phrase kept popping up in his answers.

It’s just one game. It’s just one game. It’s just one game.

Sure, Jake. But it was also the first game that Dave Hakstol decided to play you in a spot where you hadn’t been as a Flyer since 2011, with a new set of linemates to boot in Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. Even more than Voracek’s slump-busting three-point night, the Flyers’ new second line made a solid first impression. They’re definitely still in the circle of trust.

On a couple of shifts in the first period, you could clearly see Hakstol’s logic. The new line held the puck in the offensive zone for over 30 seconds twice, and its major strength was literally its strength. It’s hard to take the puck off any of these guys once they get it down low, and now they’re all working in concert to do just that. 

“Our game plan tonight was to get the puck and don’t bring guys to each other,” Simmonds said. “Make it one-on-one battles and make it hard for the other team’s defense. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”

Respectively, the three forwards stand at 6’3”, 6’2”, and 6’2”. They were separated for a chunk of the game due to Simmonds’ scrap with Brad Malone in the second period (featured below), but all three ended up with positive Corsi differentials. It was a solid all-around effort.

“We controlled the puck, and we created a lot of chances off of that,” Couturier said after contributing a goal and assist. “We have three guys that protect and control the puck pretty well.”

Of the three, the guy who protects and controls the puck best is Voracek. That’s why he signed an eight-year, $66 million contract this past offseason. Voracek is still doing that a high level, but the puck hasn’t been going in at all.

Despite the strong offensive night on Tuesday, he isn’t going to be satisfied until he goes on an extended goal-scoring tear. After deflecting Radko Gudas’ bouncing shot from the point past Eddie Lack, Voracek hardly showed any emotion.

“I almost forgot how to celebrate,” Voracek said. “That’s why I didn’t.”

Paul Holmgren acquired all three players on the newly formed line during the busy 2011 offseason, so they know each other pretty well by now. When Simmonds was informed of Voracek downplaying the idea of himself getting off the schneid, he wasn’t surprised at all.

That doesn’t mean Simmonds necessarily believes Voracek, though.

“He’ll probably say he just wants the team to win and stick to it,” Simmonds said. “You could see the relief on his face. Like I said, he’s going to get one and then he’s going to continue to score.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann