That’s more like it. The Flyers kicked off an eight-game road trip by punishing Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier for seven goals en route to a 7-4 victory. Saturday’s touchdown in Toronto marked just the fourth time in 32 games the Flyers have scored five or more goals, setting a season-high total previously set on Oct. 18th in Dallas at five.
It’s another victory edition of Flyers Backcheck, so why wouldn’t you jump in?
Emery Gets the Goal Support
The tail of two teams doesn’t feature the Flyers and Maple Leafs. No, it’s an examination of a Flyers team that’s gone from good to bad like a yo-yo, before fluctuating between average and really bad. The Flyers have shown flashes of offensive mastery, scoring four or more goals in back-to-back games on four separate occasions – 12 games total.
Saturday’s offensive display marked the second straight game in which the Flyers supplied backup goalie Ray Emery with four or more goals. Counting Oct. 18th’s overtime win in Dallas, a game in which Emery relieved Steve Mason, five of the two-time Flyer’s six wins have now come when the team in front of him hits that magical threshold or beyond.
In comparison, Mason – while also counting the game in Dallas – has been given that type of goal support in eight of his 21 appearances, winning six of them. Even with what goal support Mason has been given through the good, he’s been on the other end a time or two as well. In fact, the injured starter has been handicapped with two or less goals in 12 outings, winning only one of them.
Emery, on the other hand, has been handed such a disadvantage in only three of his 12 appearances, dropping all three in regulation.
“Great to get a lot of goals in one game and it was fun because we played right the whole game for 60 minutes,” said captain Claude Giroux after scoring a pair of goals that were a part of four points on the night. “We’ve had a lot of troubles this year doing that.”
Call it irony or pure luck. The Flyers unloaded on Toronto starter Jonathan Bernier for seven goals, forcing Leafs coach Randy Carlyle to pull his starter in the third period. Bernier’s nightmare against the Flyers continued, giving up his 14th goal in his last three games against the orange and black.
The Best One-Two Punch in the NHL?
With four points a piece in Toronto, both Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux became the league’s top scoring combo through Dec. 20th’s games. With four assists, Voracek trampolined to the leader’s circle, while Giroux tied Dallas’ Tyler Seguin’s 39 points.
“The thing about Jake is that defensively, he’s playing very well for our team and that’s why I’m able to get scoring chances because we’re able to get the puck out,” said Giroux. “For a guy like me, playing center with Jake makes my job a lot easier, and I’m pretty lucky to play with him.”
When it comes to assists, the dynamic duo sits tied with no one for the first and second slots. And through Dec. 20th, it’s Voracek that has now tied Seguin in the even-strength point department with 29. Giroux’s “right hand man’s” production is even making former teammate, and current New Jersey Devil, Jaromir Jagr look like a prophecy teller.
“He’s going to be a goal scorer and will have a lot more assists than goals,” Jagr said of Voracek last week. “When I see those guys, it’s very tough to cover them. If they are clicking, and they are on the power play and you have G [Claude Giroux] on the side and he is very dangerous.
“And he can make a fast pass. You got Simmer [Wayne Simmonds] in front of the net. He is one of the best there and he has all the rebounds. Heavy shot. You get Jake on the side coming up and down and he sees the play, plus he is playing with G and they help each other. It’s all a matter of doing it over 80 games and not getting injured.”
That’s not to say Giroux can’t play. The Flyers’ captain is unquestionably elite, boasting points in all 12 of Philadelphia’s wins to this point. That might be slighting the man, however, since he’s been held scoreless in only eight games, while Voracek and he have yet to be held scoreless in back-to-back games.
With that type of production, where do they stand among the league’s best one-two punches?
Voracek and Giroux are not only the top scoring teammates in the entire league, but are part of only three duos to tout top 10 point scorers on the same team. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson are the others.
My thumb is up to the best one-two scoring punch in the NHL, those two dazzling forwards who play on a certain team in the state of Pennsylvania.
In the past, and maybe again in the future, I would be talking about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. But, of course, you know that I am referring to the NHL’s leading scorer, Jakub Voracek and his Philadelphia Flyers teammate Claude Giroux. Watching them have their way against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night made you wonder why the Flyers aren’t higher in the standings. — Dave Hodge, TSN
The Pittsburgh stars combine for 74 points in a combined 61 games played. Stamkos and Johnson own a combined 70 points in 69 games between the two, while Voracek and Giroux jointly possess 81 points in 64 games combined.
When it comes to even-strength points, all but Johnson and Voracek are left standing in the top 10, although Nikita Kucherov slides in to take Stamkos’ spot, while Giroux drops down to just 12th where he’s tied with Malkin.
On the power play, Malkin and Crosby’s 31 combined points are just a single point ahead of Giroux and Voracek, despite Giroux’s 17 points on the man advantage being individually better than either of his foes to the west.
It’s a race we’ll be following all season long, adding to the already rich in plot twists of the individual scoring race.
Tidbits from Toronto
14-0-0 No More
Remember when the Toronto Maple Leafs were undefeated after scoring the game’s first goal? Well, they can’t say that anymore. The Montreal Canadiens now stand as the only unbeaten team in the league after beating their opponent to the first punch. At 12-14-6 now, the Flyers handed the Leafs their ninth loss in 14 games against teams with losing records. In other words, up is down, and blue is neon yellow in Toronto.
Leafs perfect record when scoring first
Oct 12 2014 – Dec 20 2014#TMLtalk.
— David Alter (@dalter) December 21, 2014
Jake Voracek Watch
Jake Voracek’s four assists on Saturday night marked just the second four point game for the 25-year-old forward in 481 games. When combined with games of three or more points, however, that number of games jumps to 18. With Dallas in Edmonton tonight, and Philadelphia in Winnipeg, Voracek will have the opportunity of staying ahead of Seguin, while Pittsburgh’s point tandem sit idle.
.@NHLFlyers' Jakub Voracek matched career-high with 4 assists. He is first player to reach 40 PTS this season & now leads NHL with 12-30—42.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 21, 2014
Grossmann Goes For More
Nicklas Grossmann set a career-high in goals – you heard that right, goals – with his third of the season. The fourth-year Flyer set a previous high of two goals back in the 2008-09 season as a member of the Dallas Stars, and has now scored at least one goal in his last three seasons with the Flyers. The 29-year-old Swede set a career-high in points last season with 14 in 78 games. The 6-4, 230-pound defenseman has eight points now in 32 games. Perhaps this offensive machine is the secret to the success of Voracek and Giroux. It only makes sense.
Meanwhile, the goal-scoring race between RJ Umberger and Nick Grossmann is heating up — both tied at 3.
— Ryan Bright (@philabright) December 21, 2014
Schenn vs. van Riemsdyk
For as many times as we have to listen to Leafs fans gloat over the trade that sent James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn, Saturday’s game put an end to the chirping – even if it is for a temporary time. In 17:01 of ice time, the former Maple Leaf contributed four blocked shots to go along with three hits and a plus-three rating. van Riemsdyk scored his 14th goal on the year on four shots while skating in 18:33 of action. The former Flyer finished Saturday’s struggle with a minus-one rating, while probably being called a pigeon by his former comrades.
— Bob Dobalina (@outonthepatio) December 20, 2014
Boarding a Jet to Play the… Jets
It’ll be another quick turnaround for the Flyers as they head to Winnipeg to play the 17-10-6 Jets. Philly has lost two straight in Winnipeg, last winning there on Feb. 12th, 2013. The Jets are 8-6-2 at home on the year, and their mark against Eastern Conference teams is more intimidating. Paul Maurice’s squad is 10-3-3 versus non-conference opponents, and stands at a stealthy 6-0-2 against the Metropolitan Division.
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 21, 2014
The Flyers took the season series last year with a record of 1-0-1, which means they came away with a point in their last defeat in Manitoba. Call me greedy, but that extra point would look awfully good in Philly’s point column.
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.