Looks like the wunderkind has finally figured it out.
Ordinarily when Sean Couturier’s name has come up in the past, it’s usually been a fierce debate among Flyers fan over whether to cut bait and trade him or keep him and wait for him to develop, a nifty catch word used to tell people to be patient. As anyone affiliated with Philly’s win now mentality, patience isn’t a luxury easily afforded.
So far this season, and especially tonight against the Detroit Red Wings on the road, those patient Flyers fans are being rewarded mightily.
Doing something Peter Laviolette was never want to do, current Flyers coach Craig Berube decided the time was right to put his eggs in the Couturier basket, and he hasn’t been let down by this choice. Forming a line featuring the playmaking/defensively sound Couturier, incredibly accurate shooter Matt Read, and rough and tumble yet solid scoring forward Steve Downie, Berube may have stumbled upon a little bit of magic, and is now the owner of the best 3rd line in hockey.
This game began in similar fashion for the Flyers, struggling to find their game early on, and the Wings took advantage of that opportunity to stake themselves to a first period lead thanks to Tomas Tatar, only to have that 3rd line respond with a nice wrister from Downie to even things up. The festivities (and as the usual NHL rumor, the influence of the referees infavor of the Wings on home ice) would begin in the 2nd period.
First it was the Mule, Johan Frazen, establishing a Wings lead again with a nice off angle shot that Flyers goalie Steve Mason had virtually no chance on. Tatar would bag his second goal of the evening, and give the Wings a 3-1 lead thanks to a power play, one of five, yes count ’em five penalties against the Flyers in this period. Some of the calls seemed a little overblown, especially the tripping call on Rinaldo, and gave a little life to the home ice at the Joe ref myth. Near the closing moments of the second that Flyer third line struck yet again, this time it was Read, and it closed the gap, giving the Flyers a shot at evening things up in the 3rd period, which they would go on to do.
Cluade Giroux would tie things up, a power play goal, and it’s worth noting that the Flyers went 3 for 3 with the man advantage. Then that third line went ahead and decided that grabbing the lead was going to be by their hand as Sean Couturier deflected a shot from the point, and from that moment on, the Flyers never looked back.
This was refreshing, considering the third period misfortunes that have occurred for the Flyers this year. After taking the lead the Flyers would tally another goal on their third power play as Scott Hartnell broke free from a defenders in front of the net, taking a Giroux pass and one timing it past a prone Jimmy Howard. Watching the Wings unravel was astonishing, and it really reflected how much they missed their two top stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but no one can take away how well the Flyers played in spite of those two not being able to play. The Wings are a solidly built team, led by an intense and intelligent head coach in Mike Babcock. After all, the Flyers were without one of their own big fish in Vincent Lecavalier, one of the goal leaders on this club.
I was disappointed to see the myriad of penalties called against the Flyers, and for all of the whining and concern over the Pittsburgh Penguins getting calls their way, the Wings have to be a close second. This game might have been tied a lot sooner if the Flyers weren’t going to the box one after another during the second period, one which happened to also see the Wings take their momentarily commanding lead. A former NHLer tweeted that he would bet the Flyers had a penalty due to go their way to make up for all the calls, usually a bad sign that the refereeing isn’t doing its best job. Still, the Flyers overcame it, and are now 2-1 on their current six game road trip.
Not a bad place to be, and as long as that 3rd line belonging to Couturier stays hot, this team has a chance every single evening.