Flyers' third line helps fuel win over the Sabres
Matt Read celebrates after one of his two goals in the Flyers' 4-1 win over the Sabres. (USA Today Images)
Were it not for a concussion and eye injury, who knows what kind of stats Steve Downie might have at this point.
He came here in a trade from Colorado for Max Talbot, got into a fight and missed four games.
Since he's come back, well, he’s been an assist machine for the Flyers. Downie added two more assists Thursday night during the Flyers' 4-1 win over the hapless Buffalo Sabres (see Instant Replay).
That’s five assists in six games as a Flyer and 11 assists overall this season. Both his assists were first assists, setting up two Matt Read goals that helped the Flyers erase a 1-0 deficit and never look back on Buffalo.
“We just got a couple openings,” Downie said, downplaying his role on Sean Couturier’s third line. “Matt Read had a great shot.
Flyers coach Craig Berube feels Downie is a perfect fit on this line.
“He creates offense for that line,” Berube said. “He’s got very good vision and he’s strong on the puck. Makes a lot of little plays. Your checking the other team’s top line with [them] and it’s nice to get some offense, too.
“He provides that. He’s a good player along the walls. He doesn’t panic with the puck on the wall. He’s strong. He’ll eat it [if necessary] and do the right things.”
Couturier’s line had six points in the game with those two goals.
“Yes, we are getting comfortable together,” Downie said. “We’re getting to know each other now and where we are going to be. Tonight, it worked out and we are getting better. If we want to get into playoffs, we have to keep pushing.
“I’m just trying to do my job. I play similar every night. Some nights you get points and some you don’t. We got bounces tonight.”
Couturier was impressed.
“He’s a smart player out there,” he said of Downie. “He’s creating some plays and creating some space for us, me and Reader. Ever since he’s gotten here, it’s been easier. He’s all over the ice and it’s nice to play with him.
“Downs is creating a lot of space out there. It’s fun, I mean, we’re having some good chemistry now and hopefully we can keep having success.”
There really wasn’t a whole lot going on with the Flyers peppering goalie Ryan Miller with some tough shots for almost 30 minutes.
“The first period we got away from our system,” mused Read. “We were playing pond hockey. We weren’t playing smart, physical hockey, getting pucks deep.
“We talked on the bench, Downie, Coots and I about keeping it simple, getting pucks deep and going to work. And it happened in back-to-back shifts and we got a couple lucky bounces and couple lucky goals.
The first goal saw Downie pass from behind the net into the high slot where Read shot.
“I didn't get all of it,” Read said. “I don't know what happened, I think Miller might have fell down. But, luckily, I'll take that to tie the game up.”
A little over a minute later, Read gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead with his sixth goal overall and second of the game off a faceoff in the Buffalo zone.
“I was forechecking their [defense] and I saw Coots get the puck,” Read said. “I just stayed in front of the net and he fired the puck to me. I caught it and had all the time in the world and put it upstairs.”
Yep, high under the crossbar after Miller committed.