Coming-of-age? Sean Couturier dominates in Flyers’ 6-3 win over Detroit

Coming-of-age? Sean Couturier dominates in Flyers’ 6-3 win over Detroit

Sean Couturier turns 21-years-old this Saturday, but he’s already well into his third full season in the NHL, and really starting to come into his own as an all-around player. He may have made a name for himself in the Philadelphia Flyers’ nationally televised 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Couturier reached new career highs with four points (2 G, 2 A) and a plus-three rating, as he helped the Flyers erase a two-goal deficit and ultimately run the Red Wings out of their own building with five unanswered scores. He also won 11-of-21 faceoffs taken, and led all forwards in shifts with 30.

From a pure statistical standpoint, it was the best regular season game of Couturier’s career. He also registered four points once in the postseason as a rookie, potting three goals and a helper in Game 2 of Philadelphia’s first-round series over the Penguins.

His brilliant power-play feed to free up Steve Downie in the slot got the Flyers on the scoreboard in the first period. In the second, it was an instinctive dish from below the goal line to Matt Read all alone in front of the net, a critical play that cut Detroit’s lead to one before the teams went into the dressing room.

Both passes required tremendous vision, precision and impeccable execution. Couturier obliged, and his linemates were there to finish. How great has his pairing with Downie and Read been of late?

Fittingly, Couturier would punch home the decisive marker. He had positioned himself aside of Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard, which just happened to be where the puck was heading after Downie’s shot took a left turn off of a defender’s skate. Coots effortlessly redirected the biscuit into the basket to put the Flyers on top.

Good things happen when you crash the net.

Even the empty-netter was a heady play. Couturier patiently held on to the disc until he got the look he wanted, then fired it from the neutral zone to put the exclamation point on his night.

Claude Giroux also snapped a goal by Howard from outside the faceoff circle to tie the score on a nicely executed power play that pressured Detroit throughout. Giroux looked like he was setting up for it again on the next power play some minutes later, but once the captain attracted attention he passed to Scott Hartnell who had wheeled into the slot. Excellent play design.

Steve Mason stopped 32 of 35 shot attempts for Philadelphia.

It’s worth noting the Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi, all scratched due to various injuries.

Couturier’s goals give him four in the Flyers’ last four games, and 10 points over the last nine. He’s up to 14 points (5 G, 9 A) and is plus-10 through 28 games this season.

Of course, the great thing about the 2011 eighth-overall pick is you always get more than what you see on the stat sheet. He plays great defense, rarely makes mistakes with the puck, and isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas when necessary.

The way he’s playing right now, and the fact that we’re talking this highly about a still-20-year-old kid should mean big things are in store for the Flyers in the future. Just imagine, Couturier could be wearing orange and black for another decade... or two.

>> Box Score [Yahoo!]

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

The Sixers (22-36) host the NBA-best Golden State Warriors (49-9) at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Bummer at the buzzer
Apparently one good last-second shot deserves another.

The Sixers stormed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks on Saturday. Jahlil Okafor capped off his monster night with what appeared to be the game-winner at the time when he scored in the lane with nine seconds remaining.

That was until Carmelo Anthony drained a clutch jumper over Robert Covington with 0.3 ticks left on the clock to give the Knicks a 110-109 victory. Call it payback for T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beater against New York last month.

While the Sixers didn't get the win, they had to be pleased with some of the efforts they received on the second night of a back-to-back set. 

Okafor finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Dario Saric added 19 points and 15 boards.

2. So much splashing
The Sixers will need those type of performances and then some if they hope to keep up with this potent Warriors team.

In case you've been lost at sea since the summer, former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted Oklahoma City for Golden State in free agency to turn the "Splash Brothers" of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into an entire splash family.

Already dominant offensively, the Warriors have been even better this season with Durant. They rank No. 1 in a slew of offensive categories, including points per game (118.2), field goal percentage (50.0), assists per game (31.0), fastbreak points per game (23.5), offensive rating (114.1) and true shooting percentage (60.4).

If that weren't enough, Durant's length has also impacted the Warriors' defense too. They are first in the league in steals (9.6), blocks (6.7) and points off turnovers (19.2) per game.

Simply put, the Warriors are scary good. 

3. The wild card
Every family has that one person that you're just not sure about at times. They can make gatherings the best night ever or a downright miserable experience.

Enter Draymond Green. 

Green has been on the miserable side of the Warriors' gatherings lately. He shot 1 of 10 for five points and was benched for long stretches in Golden State's win over Brooklyn on Saturday. In the game prior to that against the L.A. Clippers, he picked up a technical foul, trash talked Paul Pierce and went to his preferred kick move on Blake Griffin.

Overall, Green has been his usual solid self on the court. He's averaging 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists a night while providing lockdown defense.

The Sixers are fully aware of Green's versatility. The veteran forward averaged a triple-double against them in the two meetings last season with 11.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

It will be interesting to see Green lock horns all game with the surging Saric.

4. Injuries
Joel Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

The Warriors have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost six straight games to the Warriors.

• With their 112-95 win over the Nets on Saturday, the Warriors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. It marked the earliest a team has clinched a postseason spot since the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

• Covington is averaging 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in February.

• Thompson averaged 36.0 points on 54.7 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point range against the Sixers last season.

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning suspended 2 games for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning was suspended two games for his illegal hit to Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel during Saturday's 4-2 loss in the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field.
 
Manning's shoulder made contact with Guentzel's head.
 
Manning wasn't surprised and even admitted to reporters that he fully expected "one or two" games because he hit a player who didn't have control of the puck yet.
 
Strangely, there was no penalty on the play for interference, yet the NHL's explanation on Monday afternoon specifically cited "interference" as the reason for the suspension.
 
This is Manning's first NHL suspension.
 
The hearing was conducted on the phone Monday with Stephane Quintal, senior vice-president of NHL Player Safety. Manning will forfeit $10,833.34 in salary.
 
"It was late," Manning said of the hit. "He didn't touch the puck after it hit his skate. Which I thought he was going to do. They do their whole breakdown by time frame."
 
Manning said he caught Guentzel's shoulder first, then his head "on the follow through" because Guentzel is shorter than him.  The 6-foot-1 Manning has two inches on Guentzel.
 
Guentzel, who had two assists in the game, was not injured.
 
"Looking at it, [the hit] is a little late," Manning admitted. "I thought he was going to touch the puck. Usually, when a puck hits your skate, you pick it up, and he kinda left it ... The hard part is, there was no penalty called on it."
 
Manning said he had to make a hit or face an odd-man rush.
 
"There were two players there and if I don't play my guy there, it’s a 3-on-1 the other way," he said. "You're giving up scoring chances. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt. He finished the game and that's always the good thing."
 
Mark Streit, sitting on the bench at the time, said he saw the hit and was shocked at the suspension.
 
"It was a great hit," Streit said. "You look at the replay and everything looks different. You can slow down every hit and talk about it. I guess it was a little late …"
 
Manning's suspension likely means Michael Del Zotto will play against Colorado on Tuesday.
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Manning has been a "solid piece" for the club this season.
 
"He brings that physical edge, he's been reliable, and he's been a staple for our lineup," Hakstol said. "That's a hole we'll have to fill over next couple of games here."
 
Manning will also miss Thursday's game against Florida.