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GREENBERG: The Right Formula

Dale Weise finds success and chemistry alongside Couturier & Schenn

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

We would like to be able to definitively explain how a struggling grinder suddenly has helped Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier become the best players they have been in their six years as Flyers. But taking a cue from all the good hockey lines, we probably are better off not over thinking things.

Chemistry is the game's great mystery. Some Hall of Fame setup men have been unable to find proven finishers. So suffice it to say that from the March 19 date Coach Dave Hakstol added Dale Weise to a two-game-old combination of Schenn and Couturier, the three have enjoyed a rapport that was as unpredictable as it has been delightful.

In the nine games since the union, Schenn has 12 points, Couturier eight and Weise eight, numbers that will do a number on your head wondering what might have been had these guys played together from the beginning of the season.

Truth is, until the trading deadline acquisition of Val Filppula, the lineup was not long enough to move Schenn out of a spot on the first two lines while keeping him at wing, which clearly has proven to be his best position. There is some irony to the addition of Filppula making Couturier the third-line center only to have him begin to produce like a second-line center, but who really cares? Filppula and the callup of Jordan Weal have made the lineup so much deeper and playoff worthy that the 2016-17 Flyers want a do-over that, sadly, they will not get.

Weise might as well be considered a late season pickup too, because he bears no resemblance to that guy with No. 22 on his back who struggled for 60 games to find a place in the lineup.

"He was a little in between in terms of his thought process," said GM Ron Hextall. "But now he's gotten back to what he's been-an up-and-down-the-wing, physical, player with good size and speed.

"He is getting to the net, is playing the game he needs to play."

It is a game the Flyers, who haven't received the numbers of redirection and screened goals at even strength that the contenders do, have badly needed on their lines not being manned by Wayne Simmonds. For Weise to become another such presence has taken a long five months which threatened to become four long years of contractual obligation. 

First impressions can be bad impressions. Also false ones. Danny Briere, Derian Hatcher and Scott Hartnell were free agents booed through much of their struggling first Flyer seasons and Luke Richardson couldn't get on the ice. By the end of all those player's long Philadelphia runs, the organization had gotten plenty of bang for the buck.

"A lot of times free agents aren't that great the first season," said Hextall. "You never evaluate a deal based on one year.

"We have watched Dale Weise for years and know he is a good player. He was going to come around."

If the Flyers were going to be proven wrong, then so would have been up to 10 other teams who offered Weise pretty much the same money and years that the Flyers did. Consecutive 14-goal seasons and solid contributions to 2014 and 2015 Montreal playoff runs made a 6-2, 206 pound, 27-year old corner and slot presence a marketable commodity.

Again, it's all about the chemistry. Starting the season, Weise had little of it on a line with Nick Cousins and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Then in Game Four, Weise put his shoulder to the head of the Ducks' Korbinian Holzer and drew a three-game suspension, which didn't help. Neither did streaks of five and six games when Weise was a healthy scratch.

"When you are sitting out that long, you are obviously frustrated, but I have been around long enough to know how the game works," said Weise. " You wait for your opportunity and then you have to make the most of it.

"I was on my third team (Montreal traded Weise to the Blackhawks at the 2016 trading deadline) in a year," he said. "I think a lot of people will tell you when you go to a new team there is a little bit of an adjustment, getting your family settled, finding your role. Getting suspended was a setback.

"To be honest with you, after the first 10-15 games I thought I was playing well, just couldn't get a bounce. Hitting posts, missing chances, I couldn't score, that was the bottom line.

"You have to earn the coach's trust. When you are playing big minutes, it's easier to establish yourself.

Playing with good players who have never played better makes it easier still. We have seen previous short spurts of offense from Couturier, but he has never before looked this hungry to score. Schenn was a fifth-overall pick by the Kings who has suffered long goal droughts, particularly at even strength. Now he is a happening shift after shift.

"Brayden is making plays, beating guys one-on-one, that I haven't seen him do all year," said Weise. "He has a big body, has great hands, can really shoot the puck. Same with Couts.

"Why is it working? Good question. All I know is both of them are so easy to play with. We build up a lot off our forecheck. I get to the net as much as I can.

"Now we have four legit lines that can play, including three pretty good offensive lines that can match up against anybody's. I don't think we are worried about matchups anymore and that's huge. 

"Whether you call him a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3, Val adds that depth we didn't have. I really like the team we have; why I signed here. I thought we could be good for a number of years, not just one and done."

Hextall had the same opinion about Weise. It is beginning to pay off.

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