For the diehard fans tracking Philadelphia Flyers players overseas, daily reports are typically available around the internet for who scored the game winner in Sweden, destroyed some unsuspecting German in a fight, or injured their knee in the Czech Republic.
It’s difficult to read much into the success or failure of the players abroad, as the level of competition varies widely and some players have seen more ice time than others. However, the utilization of some players raises some interesting questions for the Flyers’ line-up once the NHL returns to action.
In Germany, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux have both seen quick success in the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) with Eisbären Berlin. Through three games, Briere has recorded 3 goals and 10 points while Giroux has tallied 2 goals and 7 points.
The kicker? They are playing on the same line (with a combined 17 points in 3 games).
In Philadelphia, head coach Peter Laviolette would have likely started the season with Giroux centering the top line and Danny Briere centering the second line. This experiment in Berlin, though, begs the question of whether the two former housemates could form a new top line for the Flyers.
In Sunday’s 7-1 win against the Iserlohn Roosters, head coach Don Jackson broke up the duo in the second period. The game remained scoreless until the third period, when the dam eventually broke. Giroux finished with a goal and an assist (the latter on a beautiful no-look, backhand pass) while Briere added an assist once the outcome was virtually decided.
If Laviolette opted to look at these two together in Philadelphia, it would fall to Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier or Matt Read to center the second line.
Based on his play in Sweden, Read appears to be the better candidate.
Read, along with linemates Carl Hagelin (of the New York Rangers) and Damien Fleury (of the French National Ice Hockey team), has propelled Sodertälje SSK of the Swedish second-tier league Allsvenskan from 11th place to 8th place (and rising).
Read, centering his line, has scored 1 goal and 8 points in four games played. In an interview on the team’s web site, Read stated,
“Coming over, you’re not sure what kind of guys you’re going to play with, but when I heard Hagelin signed the day before I did, I knew I was going to play with him, probably. He’s a fast skater, smart out there and he works hard. He’ll find all those little pucks for you and do the little things and help our line out. Fleury is overall a great player. Knows how to get to open ice and has a great shot. Carl and I both talked, let him get in the shooting lanes and find him, because most of the time he’s going to score.”
It’s not a stretch to imagine Read developing similar chemistry between Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek if they play in similar roles.
The biggest weakness in Read’s game to date is his face-off percentage. He ranked 6th among Flyers last season in the total number of face-offs taken and ranked last among that group with a 41% success rate.
It’s a shame that in mid-October, one can still speculate what the Flyers’ line-up will look like. Regardless, the success of Briere, Giroux and Read will be worth following until the NHL returns.
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Note: The photo at the top of this post comes from the Eisbären Berlin web site.