VOORHEES, N.J. – When Craig Berube took over as Flyers coach after three games this season one of the very first changes he made was putting Sean Couturier and Matt Read together on the same line.
The two played well together as a shut down pair the previous season and Berube wanted to get them playing together as quickly as possible to get his team being as defensively responsible as they could while he worked on fixing his floundering offense.
The duo are still playing together today on the Flyers “third line,” which is a misnomer really because they play more minutes than every forward except Claude Giroux and usually match up against the best scorers on the opposition.
They have played together for 53 games this season. In those games, almost exclusively playing against the Sidney Crosbys, Alexander Ovechkins and Phil Kessels of the world, the duo has as many goals at even strength as they’ve let up – 27.
That’s pretty impressive when you think about it.
|Matt Read has quietly been one of the Flyers most crucial players this season with 16 goals and playing a superb two-way game. |
It means the Couturier, Read, and whoever has played on their line (mostly Steve Downie, but at times they’ve had Vinny Lecavalier, Michael Raffl and Scott Hartnell) has matched the even strength production of the best players in the game, and done so by limiting their offense enough to score on a level playing field.
“Every team has top players in the world and at the end of the night if you shut them down, or score a goal against their line, we’re happy,” said Read. “That’s part of our job and we have to focus on our job when we play against those lines every night. If we do our job we’re going to help our team not only get into the playoffs but to go on a huge playoff run.”
Read couldn’t be more right, because come playoff time, when time and space are at a premium, the roles of the shutdown line are the most crucial in a game.
So far this season, only two players have been able to score multiple even strength goals aganst Read and Couturier – Tyler Seguin scored two in Dallas in early December and Clark MacArthur had a pair the next game in Ottawa – that’s it.
“They do a good job at playing good defense and taking the offense when it’s there,” Berube said. “They’re really smart that way. They’re really good defensively and yet they still put pucks in the net for us. They’re not just sitting back and saying, ‘I’m just going to get it out of our zone and get it in the other zone.’ They’re attacking the net, and they should. They know their job.”
In the last 10 games specifically, in which the Flyers are 8-2-0 and have climbed from fourth in the Metropolitan to second in the division, Read and Couturier have been especially good.
They’ve only been on the ice for four goals against – and just two in the eight wins – Matt Stajan of Calgary and Dmitri Orlov of Washington.
Meanwhile, they’ve scored six even strength goals in those 10 games.
“Chief relies on us a lot and he trusts us,” said Read. “He keeps putting us out there in those big opportunity moments and we’re making the most of it. It’s a good role for us.”
NOTES: Couturier didn’t practice because of a maintenance day. Ray Emery remains day-to-day with a lower body injury. Cal Heeter is still with the Flyers practicing… Michael Raffl said that trade deadline day stunk for him. On Tuesday afternoon, when the Flyers traded for Andrew MacDonald, Raffl got in his car and made the five-hour drive to Glens Falls. He spent the night in a hotel, stopped by the Phantoms practice in the morning, said hello, got back in his car and drove back to Philadelphia. All that because the NHL doesn’t allow for paper transactions. Silly.
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