Exactly halfway through the season, Steve Mason wonders exactly why it is still questioned whether Jake Voracek, the NHL’s scoring leader, is in a class with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos. The question should be: Are they in his?
“I think Jake is making his own class,” said the Flyers goalie. “He is such a dynamic player there are not many players as fast and as powerful who can protect the puck.
“He is very unique. We’re lucky to have a player like that.”
Forty-one games in, the biggest names in the game all are still chasing Voracek, who, at age 25, has never scored more than 62 points in a season, never finished higher than 19th in the league and will announce his pursuit of the Art Ross Trophy on the Twelfth of Never.
“We’ll talk about it after 55 games,” he said after 13 contests. After 41, he announced intention of pushing that back to 70. For Jake’s sake, one only hopes the Flyers still have other things to talk about by then. Meanwhile, it’s not a reach that Voracek -- who is the first Flyer to lead a scoring race this late in a season since Eric Lindros in 1998-99 -- can become the franchise’s first-ever to lead it at the end of season. It’s just a reach to get him to concede this is a priority.
“Only reason I know is that everyone talks about it,” he said. “I look at the standings more often than the stats; it’s much more important.”
Voracek fired home a 4-on-3 winner off of Nicklas Backstrom in overtime Thursday night as the Flyers gained a point on Washington, stayed even with Boston and gained two points on four other teams between them and the post-season.
|JAKE CAN'T WRAP |
JAKE CAN'T SING
JAKE CAN SCORE
Alas, in playoff races, just like scoring races, it’s good to be the frontrunner. Also best, in both regards, to ignore all the noise around you. Voracek shed ten pounds last summer to gain a half step that appears to be making a lot of the difference for him. So why would he weigh himself down with new expectations?
He will keep shooting the puck and -- politely as always -- the messengers who remind him every day that his totals still look down on all the guys to which he looks up.
“Crosby, Stamkos, and G no matter what happens they stay the same,” said Voracek. “That’s why the best players are the best.
“If they do not produce as much as they [had been] they stick with it and eventually it’s going to go in. You have to find a way to produce on the other side on the rink. Play defense, block a shot, make a hit.”
Also, make a statement. The trophies, the acclaim, his next contract after this one expires at the end of next season, all will take care of themselves if he takes care of the puck in the right way for his team. Marcel Dionne is the NHL’s sixth all-time leading scorer, but nobody who watched him or remembers him would ever put him in their top 25 all-time players because he never got close to a Stanley Cup.
Jake may be new to this scoring race stuff, but has been around a rink a few times. This weekend he will be named to the All Star Game to be played in the city, Columbus, where he broke into the NHL. He would rather the Flyers make it three in a row Saturday by beating Boston.
“Every player dreams of being an all star,” he said. “But, trust me, there are more important things in life than waiting for a nomination to the All Star Game.
Okay, we trust him, just like Craig Berube does to keep the shifts short and the priorities straight.
“He is very even keel,” said Berube. “I’m not sure Jake really thinks about being a leader in scoring, he wants to win hockey games.
“He works hard, that’s what he does. He’s a hard working guy with skill.”
He is working hardest of all at off-putting his Art Ross chances, which will depend on putting off long droughts. Voracek’s one timer Thursday night from the high slot off Giroux’s set up was his first goal and only second point in four games, yet Jake still leads Tyler Seguin by two points and a pack of five that includes Giroux by four.
Thursday night the Flyers got two goals from their checking line that they haven’t been getting, not that they have been receiving them from their second line either. All of which adds pressure on the first line for a better reason than an all expense paid trip to Las Vegas in June to pose for pictures with a trophy, albeit a pretty, time-honored, one.
Jake can afford to book Vegas on his own this summer, if he really wants to go. He needs to score for the Flyers to win, but hey, down nine points in the playoff race, let’s talk about that after 55 games, too.
In the meantime, Voracek studies the competition, not their point totals. You know, crunch Crosby in the corners, not his numbers. Calculate where the puck should go, not the one point whatever per game Jake needs to reach 100.
Right now, Voracek projects to 98. At that point, he’ll say, "Let’s talk about 100 when I get there."