Voracek breaks slump; Flyers lose
Jake Voracek scores his first five-on-five goal since last year, but Ottawa wins in overtime.
OTTAWA - Jake Voracek slowed to a crawl, worming his way in on Andrew Hammond in the shootout.
He beat the "Hamburglar," the hottest goaltender in the NHL, but was robbed by the post. Nine times out of 10, his shot - which hit the inside of the post - would have clanked into the net.
On this night, it clanked out - and Voracek could do little more than look toward the Canadian Tire Centre rafters in disbelief.
It's just been that type of season for Voracek. When he scores, the Flyers lose. When his production trails off, the Flyers win. When the power play is clicking, his even-strength scoring is nonexistent.
It was that way last night, too. In the Flyers' 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators, Voracek failed to score in the shootout - where he is 3-for-6 recently - but actually scored during five-on-five play for the first time since Dec. 21.
"It was about time one was going to go in," Voracek said. "When you don't score for a while, you start to overthink shots, overthink situations around the goalie. I would be more happy if those goals came more often. But we didn't produce for a while and we were winning games. In the beginning, we weren't winning games as a team - which is the most important thing."
After Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux were also stopped to preserve the Senators' 11th win in 13 games, a fan threw a hamburger on the ice and Hammond posed for a photo with it-- the fact that the bun and patty remained intact nearly as miraculous as his run in the NHL.
Hammond, the 27-year-old rookie who was on Ottawa's roster for a month before actually appearing in a game, is one shy of an NHL record for most games to start a career (10-0-1) without allowing more than two goals. Boston's Frank Brimsek holds the mark from way back in the 1938-39 season. Hammond has a ridiculous .955 save percentage, which actually includes the two goals in five shots he allowed in a third-period relief appearance.
For the Flyers, though, the only thing left to root for over the final 11 games of this season is Voracek in the Art Ross Trophy race as the NHL's top scorer. With his goal, Voracek is now tied for fourth with 69 points in 71 contests, three back of the Islanders' John Tavares. Sidney Crosby (71) and Alex Ovechkin (71) are also ahead - and Crosby still leads the league in points per game, perhaps making him the odds-on favorite.
That Voracek is even still in the race is ridiculous, considering the numbers.
Since his last five-on-five goal on Dec. 21, exactly 546 other NHL players had scored at even strength - leaving him as not only the only Flyers forward without one, but also well behind some pretty dubious names.
Defensemen Nick Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Nick Schultz all netted multiple even-strength goals in that time span. Before this season, Grossmann's career high for goals in any season was two. Schultz went 125 games without a goal.
Voracek lingered for some 535 minutes, 58 shots and dozens more attempts and close calls before finally connecting last night. He netted five power-play goals during the same run.
"Don't forget, we had a good power play. That's a good thing," Voracek said. "I've been through these situations so many times that I just try to stay positive and keep shooting the puck. As long as you create, you are fine. The game against Dallas, we had five or six good looks and we didn't bury. The game is really tightening up."
Coach Craig Berube said Voracek's work ethic never wavered during the slump.
"I think they all go through it," Berube said. "He gets chances, but they weren't going in. He stayed with it."
That Voracek still has a shot to become the first Flyer to ever lead the league in scoring is a testament to his incredible start. He tallied 58 points in his first 51 games. Last night's was just his 11th in his last 21 games.
He admitted he would like to win the Art Ross, but doesn't pay much attention to it.
"I've been saying all season long, it's been so hard with so many good players," Voracek said. "It's really hard to be a point-per-game player this days. When you've got guys who have been doing it for such a long time - like [Evgeni] Malkin and Crosby - they can pull off 10 points in two games and it's over. There's 11 games left, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. It's a good feeling, but it's hard. I try to stay humble."
It's no surprise that some of the names crowding Voracek atop the points list have excelled at even strength. Malkin had 11 even-strength goals in the time Voracek had zero, same with Ovechkin. Even Scott Hartnell had 10 even-up goals.
If Voracek has any prayer, even strength is the only way.
"The goals are going to come," Voracek said. "Like today, I just closed my eyes and I shot it and it went in. Sometimes, that's the best way to do it."