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How Philadelphia Flyers' Top Line Has Been Improving Without Vincent Lecavalier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 12: Michael Raffl #12 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his first period goal against the Montreal Canadiens with teammates Jakub Voracek #93 and Claude Giroux #28 on December 12, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
Brad KurtzbergContributor IJanuary 3, 2017

When the Philadelphia Flyers lost Vincent Lecavalier to injury on November 30, there was concern that the team would again struggle to score goals like it did early in the season. That has not turned out to be the case, however, as the new top line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl has been very effective for Philadelphia.

Raffl is the biggest surprise of the group. The 26-year-old Austrian rookie had only one assist while playing on the fourth line earlier this season. But in nine games since joining the new first line, Raffl has scored two goals and accumulated eight points.

Meanwhile, Giroux has five goals and 12 points since Lecavalier's injury and has now scored at least one point in his last five games, while Voracek has added seven goals and 13 points.

Improved scoring balance is something the Flyers lacked earlier in the season.
Improved scoring balance is something the Flyers lacked earlier in the season.Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

Best of all, the Flyers have a winning record without Lecavalier, collecting at least a point in six of nine games while pulling above the .500 mark for the first time this season.

One thing Raffl adds to the lineup that the Flyers needed badly is speed. Voracek told Chris Pawling of the South Jersey Times, "He’s got good speed, and a good shot. I told him to just hang out in the slot and me and ‘G’ [Giroux] would try to feed him. He had a couple of good chances..and I think he had a great game."

Head coach Craig Berube had a tough choice to make after Lecavalier went down. He didn't want to break up the third line of Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Steve Downie that was providing so much of the offense in the second half of November.

The coach also recognized that Raffl showed some improved play in recent games, so he decided to try him on the top line. "I thought Raffl, the last couple games on the road, was really good," Berube told Pauling. "I liked what I saw and I just wanted to make a change. It ended up working out."

When asked what Raffl brings to the table, Berube added, "He’s a quick player and strong on the puck. He’s getting more pucks on the net."

Raffl's speed has in turn opened up more room for Giroux to make plays and for Voracek to get better scoring chances.

Simmonds, Schenn and Hartnell are also clicking.
Simmonds, Schenn and Hartnell are also clicking.Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The new second line of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn has also clicked, and suddenly the Flyers have a more balanced scoring attack and three lines that opposing teams have to account for.

The result: Philadelphia has scored 28 goals in the nine games since Lecavalier was injured.

Berube will face another challenge when Lecavalier returns to the lineup and presumably rejoins one of the top two lines. But until then, Raffl is gaining valuable experience playing on the top line, and Hartnell is thriving with his new linemates while the Flyers are getting more offensive production than they have been all season.

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