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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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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Gostisbehere 6 1 1 0 2
B. Schenn 6 0 2 2 2
W. Simmonds 6 0 2 -1 2
S. Gagner 6 0 2 1 2
J. Voracek 6 1 0 -1 1
M. Raffl 6 1 0 0 1
R. White 6 1 0 0 1
C. VandeVelde 6 1 0 -1 1
A. MacDonald 6 1 0 0 1
B. Manning 6 0 1 -2 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 2 1 0 .981 0.67
S. Mason 0 3 0 .852 4.09
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