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The Read-Couturier-Downie line has been pretty good for the Flyers, who play the crummy Panthers tonight

Nov 25, 2013, 6:24 PM EDT

As you may have heard, the Flyers are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, have earned 13 of a possible 14 points during the successful stretch and have clawed their way out of the Metropolitan Division basement to currently sit just two points behind the New York Rangers for the division’s last playoff spot.

That’s quite an accomplishment considering the way the Orange and Black didn’t exactly start off on the right foot. You know what I’m talking about. No need to rehash the horror scenes and kill the good vibes we’ve got going here.

How have they turned things around?

There are plenty of reasons, but a particularly vital cog in the Flyers’ resurgence has been the “third” line of Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Steve Downie.

Since head coach Craig Berube put the trio together on Nov. 12 when Downie returned to action from a facial injury, they have been running roughshod over opponents.

In that six-game stretch, the line has produced six goals and 12 assists. Five of those goals belong to Read, who has scored two goals in each of his last two games and is tied with Vinny Lecavalier for the team led in goals with eight. The other goal belongs to Couturier, who finally broke his 25-game goal-less drought when he scored last week against visiting Ottawa.

While Downie hasn’t scored, he’s contributed six assists to the cause. The Flyers are 6-1-1 with Downie in the lineup since he was acquired on Halloween for Max Talbot.

Part of the success is due to the line often seeing favorable matchups and taking advantage of them with their skill.

They are so good defensively that the trio usually plays against opponent’s most-skilled line. For example, they’ll see Alexander Ovechkin’s line when they play the Capitals or they’ll see John Tavares’ line when they play the Islanders.

Sometimes, those highly-skilled lines don’t feature the most defensive-minded players.  Read, Couturier and Downie take advantage of those defensive deficiencies and put points on the board.

The trio scores timely goals too.

Take for example last Thursday’s win over the Sabres. The Flyers had a lackluster first 30 minutes against a terrible team. That was until the “third” line got out there, went to work on the forecheck, forced a few turnovers, netted two goals courtesy of Read and lit a fire under both the team and the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

They did it again in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the visiting Islanders. The Flyers were sloppy in the first period but the “third” line ignited a three-goal second period when Read scored 46 ticks into the frame.

They are almost reminiscent of the Scott Hartnell-Danny Briere-Ville Leino line that was put together during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the way they gel despite different styles.

Read is the speedy scorer. Couturier is the defense-first center who is slowly starting to get his scoring talent on track. And Downie is the gritty winger who isn’t afraid to get physical and get into the dirty areas to make a play.

Call them a “third” line if you want, but they’ve been the Flyers’ top line during the team’s recent hot streak.

The softer schedule as of late certainly hasn’t hurt either.

During the team’s seven-game point streak, the opponents the Flyers have faced have a combined 54-78-14 record. The only team of any relevance and that currently holds a playoff spot that the Flyers have played in this stretch was those filthy Penguins.

That trend continues tonight when the Flyers visit the Panthers to begin a quick two-game jaunt through Florida.

The Panthers are not a very good team.

With a 6-13-5 record and spared only by the mess with that is the Sabres, they currently sit in second-to-last place in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

They feature solid, young talents in this past draft’s second-overall pick Aleksander Barkov and last year’s rookie-of-the-year Jonathan Huberdeau, but that’s about all there is to write home about them.

But, hey, insane politico goaltender Tim Thomas is the Panthers’ goalie, so there’s that, I guess.

Steve Mason will get the call between the pipes for the Flyers.

The Flyers beat the Panthers, 2-1 during the teams’ first meeting back in October and that was when the Flyers were in full tailspin mode coming out of the gate. In fact, that win was the Orange and Black’s only win in their first seven games.

The Flyers are 4-3-2 away from home this season and have a glorious chance to improve that record and grab two more points that are ripe for the picking.

It’s not 25 freakin’ degrees in South Florida right now like it is here so they won’t have that for an excuse.

  1. BenE. - Nov 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    Nice to see the hysteria over Max Talbot being traded die quickly.

    • mike - Nov 26, 2013 at 7:42 AM

      Dude, nobody was upset about Talbot getting trade. You seem to be the person who talks about him the most.

      Fans were upset about another acquisition of a former Flyer who has discipline problems.

      • t800m101 - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Mike, don’t lie. Everyone knows you were drowning yourself in tears. The Flyers have been playing a lot better since the acquisition of a player with aforementioned discipline problems.

      • BenE. - Nov 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        Not necessarily on this site, but the Flyers FB page and other forums were making oceans with their Talbot tears. That’s what happens when you buy Valentine cards six months early.

  2. mike - Nov 26, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    Way to go, Jinx.

  3. psudrozz - Nov 26, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    market correction.

    team didn’t wake up until the third period.

  4. FlyersFan - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Kimmo Timonen is done. Berube is a stone cold idiot for giving him first-pairing minutes. Berube is also an idiot for taking Downie off the line with Couturier and Read and replacing him with Zac ****ing Rinaldo. How do you expect to get a positive result from a line change by replacing a productive forward with the worst forward on the team? Insane.

    Scott Hartnell. This guy is lost in space. There are no words for the fact that this guy will be the 2nd highest paid forward on the team for the next 5 years. Paul Holmgren you did it again. This ranks right up there with extending Timonen this season for $6 million.

    Speaking of Timonen, how many times is Berube going to watch this idiot make a bad play that results in a goal for the opposition? Timonen had a chance to skate the puck up out of the defensive zone against Florida last night, and instead chose to send a weak pass around the other other side of the rink which was quickly intercepted and turned into a goal.

    I can’t stand seeing this garbage anymore from the biggest cap hit on the team. Time for you to go Kimmo.

    • BenE. - Nov 26, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      As much as I think you were a blithering punk in another thread last week, I can’t find fault in this post. I think Holmgren has been a solid GM. But extending Kimmo for $6 million and giving Hartnell that extension (with a NTC to boot) are Holmgren’s first and third-worst moves (Streit signing is #2).

    • mike - Nov 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      I will never get the Timonen deal. A lot of defencemen have a bad year around 35-37 years old. It usually when the player is a bit slower and not as strong. It takes them a year or so to readjust their game to their lack of speed. You can see it happen to a lot of defencemen- Chelios, Lidstrom, Coffey, Desjardin. And then they bounce back from it because they make their adjustments. Playing defence is all about making adjustments.

      So I don’t understand giving a guy a one year deal with a ton of money at that age. More than likely, this was going to be Timonen’s worst year. If you have him on a multiyear deal, you stick with him. But it seems like Kimmo is just going back to Finland at the end of this year. It’s a shame too. Kimmo is a really awesome guy and was a great player.


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