All season, the Flyers have struggled to find secondary scoring behind the dominant Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Whoever has played alongside the team's top two forwards has produced (apologies to Chris VandeVelde), but the team's other two "scoring" lines have been anything but.
Wayne Simmonds started hot, but has cooled dramatically at even strength. Brayden Schenn looks to be taking a step forward, but much of his progress can be attributed to playing with Giroux and Voracek for an extended period of time.
The two that have been missing from the scoresheet all too often are Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Read in particular has looked totally out of sorts all season long.
The 28-year old forward has become a very popular Flyer due to his speed, accurate shot and all-around high effort style of play, particularly on the penalty kill. But all had been absent so far this year - until tonight.
Against the Devils, the old Matt Read returned. He kicked off the scoring by forcing a turnover on the penalty kill, drawing a tripping penalty, then getting up and still creating a rush, on which he found Couturier for the game's first goal.
Couturier would return the favor before the end of the first, feeding Read with a beautiful cross-ice pass to make the score 2-0 and earn a spot on all of the highlight reels on NHL Network tonight.
Wayne Simmonds would later add a power play goal in the third after the Devils had cut the score to 2-1, and Jakub Voracek contributed as usual, this time on an empty netter to ice it.
But the big story was the reemergence of Read. It's really not an overstatement to say that he's been one of the team's worst forwards so far this season - not on the level of Vincent Lecavalier and R.J. Umberger, but certainly below average. Some of it is deployment and tough competition, but that hasn't been the whole story. Read has lagged through the neutral zone, is shooting less and has been an uncharacteristic mess on the PK.
Here's to hoping that tonight marks the true start of Matt Read's season.
Some more observations on tonight's game:
- While the first matchup between the Devils and the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center turned into a surprising scorefest, this felt like a return to normalcy. Both teams struggled to move through the neutral zone, resulting in lots of dump-and-chase hockey. To the Flyers' credit, they adapted and were able to clog up the neutral zone as well, resulting in a pretty choppy game.
- Mark Streit is a player known for his offensive contributions, but he was a standout in the defensive zone tonight. He almost singlehandedly neutralized a three-on-one in the second period, and stopped a sure goal late in the third when the Devils could have cut the lead to 3-2. Streit struggled a bit around the Thanksgiving holiday, but it seems like he's back in solid form.
- Scott Laughton can really fly. His line didn't have the greatest possession game, as they were hemmed in their own zone quite a few times, but Laughton yet again stood out individually. The goals have to be coming.
- Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek weren't exactly at their best tonight, but when the horn sounded to end the game, Giroux had two assists and Voracek had a goal to his credit. Shutting down these guys for sixty minutes is not easy.
- Ray Emery put together an uncomplicated, drama-free performance. He was particularly on point with regards to rebound control. Luckily for him, he didn't see a ton of pucks either, as the Flyers blocked a ton of shots and the Devils missed the net quite a lot as well.
- R.J. Umberger really needs to start remembering that you have to gain the red line before dumping the puck in.
- Couturier has a five-game point streak now, so that's neat. This was around the time last season when he started heating up, as well.
- Luke Schenn was back in the lineup tonight (good) in favor of Michael Del Zotto (bad). Schenn had some adventures in his own zone early in the game, but settled in by the midpoint of the game. I wouldn't say he was a standout, but it's not as if he had many obvious screwups that will put him right back in the press box. In the end, who knows what Berube is going to do.
Comment of the Night
Now we find out what happens when the snore boringly team meets the unwake-able foe!