Jake Voracek wants everyone to do a better job when watching hockey games.

Well, at least the media. I guess, as the people who have the ability to shape public perception – although that’s in doubt these days – he wants the media to pay attention to things other than the score sheet.

He’s right. Too much of what is written about the sport of hockey is based on numbers. Whether it’s the old school writers who focus on goals, assists, plus/minus, goals against average, save percentage, hits and blocked shots, or it’s the analytics-driven generation that touts Corsi, expected goals, high danger chances and zone entries, too much of what is written about this sport is driven purely by numbers.

So, when he was “demoted” from the top line after the last game in Columbus, many assumed it was for shoddy play. And when he posted three points Saturday in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, the same scribes assumed he had a great game.

Voracek wants you to know it’s pretty much the opposite.

“I think the first 39 minutes I played like horse shit. You guys got to watch the game a little bit more, you know what I mean? It’s not only about points. The last three games, I thought I played good hockey,  it just didn’t go in. It doesn’t mean that if I’m not on the score sheet that I didn’t play well. So many times it’s happens. But [today] I was on the board and I had a good third period, but overall, in this game I wasn’t at the level I wanted to be. I think I was pressing a little bit too much the first 39 minutes. I think that’s when the experience comes in, you kind of use it in advantage in the third period.”

But if you’re the Flyers, you’ll take his “horseshit” performance, thank you very much.

After all, the guy single-handedly created this goal by Nolan Patrick:

What you don’t see is how Voracek stripped the puck from Will Butcher in the neutral zone, and then used his wheels to beat Butcher down the wall and find Patrick on the far side of the ice.

That’s a great play. All around. Good forecheck. Great puck control. Nifty pass. All of it, by one player.

Then, after the Devils tied the score, Voracek was able to gather a puck in the neutral zone and make this happen for the game-winner:

Ivan Provorov, who still had a couple turnovers in this game, but got progressively better as the game wore on, threw the puck up the wall. The Devils are a pinching team, and Andy Greene was pinching hard trying to stop that clearing attempt by Provorov, but he missed it.

Voracek pounced on the puck and it created a 2-on-1 with Scott Laughton.

Jake often passes in these instances, but didn’t this time, although, as one of the most honest guys in the locker room, he’ll tell you, he was planning to do just that.

“I was thinking pass all the way. But their defenseman played tight to that side, and when I decided to shoot I was too close to the goalie, so I had to do something – and it worked.”

Sure did.

He also added an assist on an empty net goal by Scott Laughton.

Jake can say all he wants that he didn’t have a good game – and he’s probably right that his first two periods were not up to snuff – but good players have a way of putting a bad shift, or a bad period, or in this case a bad two periods behind them and still being productive.

That’s what Voracek did for the Flyers, and it made a difference in the outcome of this game and brought the Flyers back to .500 (4-4-0).

Here are some other things of note about this game:

1. Defensive pairings switched up

Dave Hakstol tried to play coy about switching up his defensive pairings. It was actually the long con. It started in practice on Friday where he didn’t have line combinations or defensive pairings and kept rotating guys in compete drills.

It continued into the beginning of this game, with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere playing their first shift together before things started shifting around.

You knew the media was going to be on Hakstol about this after the game, but again, he tried to shrug it off. Here are the first three questions from his post-game press conference:

How much more did you like that defensive effort?

“I thought today’s effort, defensively, was pretty close to what we’ve done the last three games. It was just a little bit cleaner, not a big difference there. You know, I thought we completed the game, we didn’t give up. The last couple games we’ve been pretty darn good, actually the last three games we’ve been pretty darn good defensively. But we’ve given up one or two of those grade A opportunities, that come off of individual players or individual mistakes. We didn’t have that tonight.”

How much of that is about changing the defense pairs?

“I don’t think that, that’s not necessarily about changing defense pairs. That changes our rhythm a little bit. I thought the pairs that we had tonight did a good job. I thought (Robert) Hägg did a good job going over to the right side and the combination with (Christian Folin) and (Shayne Gostisbehere) played a pretty clean hockey game as well.

What did they do differently that maybe you just hadn’t been having, I know you said the effort was the same but what’s different between these pairs versus (inaudible).

 Like I said, I don’t think that the actual performance of the six defensemen was all the different than what it’s been. We eliminated a couple of home run type of plays. However, you guys have made a big deal of them. But I’ll be honest with you, the first four games of the year we had all kinds of holes defensively. Games five, six, and seven we took a huge step in the right direction. We just weren’t finishing off some of the plays, some of the shifts, and you know we exposed ourselves that way. But in terms of the chances we were giving up we have done a pretty good job the previous three games, and I thought tonight was another small step in the right direction, and was just a little bit cleaner than what we’ve been the last few games.

I called bullshit.

Seriously. If you were playing such good defense for three games in a row and the changes in the defensive pairings weren’t going to have such an impact, then why the hell would you make that change?

Which is what I asked him as a follow up. Not with the same wording… but definitely with the same intention:

Dave I don’t mean for this to sound snarky but, if that’s the case, defensive changes don’t make that much of a difference, then why make them?

“Oh, we felt it was time to make a little bit of the difference with the rhythm. Hägg is a little bit heavier body to play with Provy, in some of those situations. So obviously he has a different look than Ghost. He doesn’t do quite as much with the puck, but he provides a heavier presence there. So that changes the look of that pair, and then getting both of those back to the left side was a look that we wanted to see along with Christian Folin. We feel Fols has played pretty solid hockey and he’s done a good job so by putting more of a puck moving defenseman over on his left side, we thought that that had a good chance to work as a pair.”

That’s about as honest an answer as I was going to get, but it’s better than it had no bearing on the way the team played.

It certainly did. Hagg continues to play well, and putting him with Provorov helped Provy not have to worry as much about covering for the freewheeling Gostisbehere.

Meanwhile Folin, who is still just a placeholder until Andrew MacDonald gets himself right, plays the kind of stay-home game that can cover for Gostisbehere when he’s aggressive.

It was the right switch. It was the right decision. Hakstol has pushed a number of these buttons correctly this season, I just wish he would tell you why up front.

2. Sanheim shines

The defensive pair that Hakstol didn’t touch was Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. That’s because they’ve been steady in their role as the third pair. It’s really helping Sanheim gain confidence and he’s playing much better.

He still drifts a little too far in coverage, oftentimes trying to do his partner’s job – and that’s where he gets caught sometimes, but the last few games he’s looked really good on the blue line. Against the Devils he had two assists, which was a nice reward for his better play.

I’m not sure it’s going to translate into more ice time, but it’s definitely a positive for the Flyers.

3. The second PP unit was better than the first PP unit

And not just because they scored. They were able to actually get into the zone and set up and create a lot of chances.

Travis Konecny scored the first goal of the season for the unit:

And they were rewarded with more time on the ice on the Flyers five power plays. Rather than coming out for the final 25 seconds, Hakstol was putting them on the ice with more than a minute remaining on the power play.

Overall, the power play time was still about 3-to-1 favor the first unit, but the second unit created a lot more chances tonight and deserves some more time. I think Hakstol will give it to them moving forward.

4. We still don’t know what goaltender interference is

The Devils scored two power play goals in this game. That’s not good news for the Flyers penalty kill, but whatever. The second one should have been called off because of goalie interference. Here, look for yourself:

Kyle Palmieri is in the crease. His skate makes contact with Elliott’s stick. It may be incidental, but even if it is, by rule, that’s enough to cancel the goal.

Except, the league’s video officials thought otherwise.

Seriously, Elliott would have been better suited to throw himself into Palmieri and say, “to hell with making the save.” At least that would be incidental contact and cancel the goal.

But who knows anymore.

Hakstol challenged, and lost. On coach’s challenges he’s batting about as well as Mitch Walding.

When asked if he was surprised that it wasn’t overturned, Elliott was nonplussed:

“We don’t win many challenges here. So, I wasn’t surprised.”

5. The Flyers dominated the Faceoff circle

I didn’t even really notice this until the Flyers award-winning PR staff pointed it out. But check this crazy stat:

Since the NHL began tracking faceoffs as an official statistic in 1997-98, this is the first time the Flyers have won 44 or more faceoffs in a game while losing 16 or fewer. It’s also only the 10th time that the circumstance has happened in that time frame across the entire league. The other nine can be found here.

Pretty impressive.

6. The Devils being the Devils

The Flyers had 69 total shot attempts to New Jersey’s 45. The Flyers had 48 shots not reach the net, more than twice as many as their 21 shots on goal. The Devils blocked 27 Flyers attempts, and 21 more missed the net.

That’s crazy frustrating.

What’s also crazy frustrating is the Devils really take away the middle of the ice. They keep you to the outside and don’t allow you to create many scoring chances.

They’re a good, young team. They’re going to give the Flyers – and other teams in the Metropolitan Division – fits this season.

7. I’ll leave you with this:

Dale Weise, Jori Lehtera and Michael Raffl have done an outstanding job as the Flyers’ fourth line. They are being used properly and filling their role well. Criticize Hakstol all you want for playing Weise and Lehtera – but they deserve to play right now and are making the coach right to keep them in the lineup.