Best and Worst of the Week: The top line is on fire

Updated: October 30, 2017 at 11:38 am by Tim Riday

Through 11 games this season, there has been one major constant for the Flyers.

The goaltending has been iffy, the youngsters have had their ups and downs but the one thing the team has been able to rely on is the top line.

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier have been all over the box scores. The trio, put together as an experiment in training camp and the preseason, has already combined for 15 goals and 26 assists. They’ve also fired 93 shots on target.

If the Flyers can tighten up defensively, find an answer for their goaltending woes and avoid any more injuries, they’re going to win a lot of games with the first line playing like this.

Now it’s time to look back at the Flyers’ 1-2-0 week. You can expect to see the names Voracek, Giroux and Couturier a lot. Here we go!

Best

Goal
After a nine-game goalless drought to start the season, Voracek has found the back of the net in back-to-back games. His tally in Toronto was a thing of beauty, too. Voracek cleanly entered the offensive zone, picked his head up and saw that he was all alone on the right side of the ice. He then made an incredible power move at full speed, cutting from the faceoff dot to the middle of the ice and quickly slipped a shot between Frederik Andersen’s legs. It doesn’t get much prettier than that.

Assist
Voracek is a highlight reel machine right now. With a Maple Leafs forward bearing down on him in the defensive zone in the second period on Saturday, Voracek calmly spun away from him and sent a long-distance pass to the far side of the ice. The precision he showed on the pass to a breaking Giroux on the left wing was just insane. Giroux picked it up off the boards at the far blue line a fired a wicked snap shot over Andersen’s right shoulder. Not even fair.

Decision
Nolan Patrick was injured after taking a hard hit from Chris Wagner in Tuesday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Wagner threw a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check but Patrick’s head seemed to whiplash a bit for making contact with the glass in the corner. It was a scary sight as Patrick needed help getting off the ice, visibly dazed by the contact. The Flyers were smart to keep the rookie center out of game action in Ottawa and Toronto. The team never disclosed an exact injury but it’s entirely possible he was concussed by the hit. Patrick skated on Wednesday morning and deemed himself ready to play against the Senators but general manager Ron Hextall announced shortly before puck drop that he was unavailable and listed as day to day. We still don’t know if he showed concussion-like symptoms, which can pop up at any time, but it was nice to see the organization play it careful with the No. 2 overall pick’s health. Head injuries are nothing to mess around with.

Hit
Robert Hagg absolutely lowered the boom on Jakob Silfverberg on Tuesday. Chasing the Ducks’ forward into the corner, Hagg rode Silfverberg into the wall and finished him off with a clean, hard shove to the chest. We might have to start calling him the Punisher.

Fantasy player
If Couturier is still sitting in free agency in your fantasy league, what are you waiting for? Pick the man up. Couturier potted three goals and assisted three more in three games last week. He hasn’t been a big point producer or a key fantasy draw. That’s changing now that he’s playing with Giroux and Voracek. Couturier has seven goals, six assists, a plus-10 rating and 32 shots on goal through 11 games. He’s becoming a must-start in any fantasy league.

Save
Brian Elliott did not have a good outing against the Ducks. He surrendered six goals on just 25 shots and was shaky for most of the night. Early on, however, Elliott made a beautiful glove save on Ondrej Kase after Anaheim slipped a puck past Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim to a wide-open Kase in the slot. Elliott had to be quick and showed some great reaction time on the stop. Kase got the last laugh, though, as he went on to beat Elliott for two goals in the 6-2 win.

Quote
We should just reserve this category for Voracek every week. He’s never afraid to say what’s on his mind.

News
Big Sam Morin was recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday. The towering defenseman had a terrific preseason and will likely see his first NHL action this season on Monday. Morin began the season on the Flyers’ roster but was a healthy scratch in each of the four games on their season-opening road trip out West. He appeared in eight games for the Phantoms after being sent down, registering a goal, three assists and 17 penalty minutes to go along with a plus-7 rating.

Stat
Not a whole lot went right for the Flyers on Tuesday but one goal did have a significant meaning for three players. Couturier’s third-period goal was his 200th NHL point. It was assisted by Sanheim, his first point as an NHLer, and Voracek, who claimed his 500th NHL point on the play.

Worst

Goal against
The Senators’ second goal on Thursday night was a case of the Flyers shooting themselves in the foot. It was poor defensive-zone positioning all around and frustrating to watch unfold. Hagg was knocked off the puck behind the net but fought back to put his opponent in the boards in the corner. The puck bounced out to Giroux, who carelessly turned it over after failing to send it high off the glass for a clear. That left Mark Borowiecki wide open on the far point after every forward crashed too low. Borowiecki’s offering then went off Sanheim and trickled past Michal Neuvirth. It was an ugly sequence.

Non-call Part I
For whatever reason, the NHL made it a point to come down hard on slashing penalties this season. That’s fine as long as the refs show some consistency. Is a tap on the glove or stick worthy of two minutes in the box? It depends on how hard the contact was. But Antoine Vermette took it to a whole new level on Tuesday. The veteran center broke his stick on Giroux’s leg but the refs decided to keep their whistles in their pockets. Come on.

Non-call Part II
I guess boarding isn’t a penalty any more? Nazem Kadri, a noted pest, should have held up on Shayne Gostisbehere but instead decided to drive him head first into the boards in the neutral zone on Saturday night. To make matters worse, Gostisbehere was injured on the play. That’s a call the refs have to make. It couldn’t have been more obvious.

Turnover
Radko Gudas had an inexcusable turnover against the Senators in the first period. He had his head down looking at the puck and was picked off by Ryan Dzingel, who had a clear lane in front of him. Fortunately, Neuvirth managed to step up and bail out his defender but Gudas knows better than that. Gotta take care of the puck in your own end.

Disallowed goal Part I
Manning’s disallowed goal on Thursday was utterly frustrating. The reason? Senators goalie Craig Anderson initiated the contact with Jordan Weal in front. Did Weal enter the crease? Yes. Did he stop Anderson from defending his position? No. Anderson gave Weal a very minor shove. Weal exited the crease before Manning even unloaded his shot. For a league that wants to increase scoring, this seems like a ticky-tack call.

Disallowed goal Part II
If you thought Manning’s was bad, the NHL botched Couturier’s last-minute marker even worse. Couturier’s wraparound attempt very clearly crossed the goal line and into Anderson’s glove. The refs, however, deemed the play to be over and wiped out the goal with 58 seconds remaining. If you’re counting at home, that would have made it a 6-5 game in favor of the Flyers. You know it’s bad when you piss off Bill Meltzer.

Fan
You know that one guy who never shuts up in your section? The obnoxious, most likely intoxicated, fella? Voracek doesn’t have any time for that guy.

Stat
This one is difficult to comprehend. Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl have made for a formidable fourth line. They are perhaps the best forechecking unit on the team right now and are causing fits for the opposition. Yet, Raffl is still pointless in 2017-18. Him and Matt Read (three games played) are the only Flyers who have not recorded a goal or assist. Don’t expect that to last much longer.

Trend
Leier and Weal returned from minor upper-body injuries last week. That was nice. But, as you know, we are not allowed to have anything nice in the city of Philadelphia. Patrick went down with an injury on Tuesday and Gostisbehere exited Saturday’s tilt. This is not something the Flyers will want to deal with all season long. Let’s hope this isn’t a weekly trend.

Knockout
Gudas didn’t fare well in his scrap with Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. The pair wanted to go after a scrum in front but the officials got in between them and sent them to the box. After they served their minor penalties, they squared up at center ice. Bieksa landed a hard punch on Gudas’ cheek and, just like that, it was over. KO.

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