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FREEZE GAME

Flyers shut down line have been leaving opponents top players out in the cold

Thursday, 03.6.2014 / 7:41 PM ET / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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FREEZE GAME

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.”

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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.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 82 22 59 1 81
C. Giroux 81 25 48 -3 73
M. Streit 81 9 43 -8 52
W. Simmonds 75 28 22 -5 50
B. Schenn 82 18 29 -5 47
S. Couturier 82 15 22 4 37
M. Del Zotto 64 10 22 -5 32
M. Read 80 8 22 -4 30
M. Raffl 67 21 7 6 28
V. Lecavalier 57 8 12 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 18 18 11 .928 2.25
R. Emery 10 11 7 .894 3.06
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