Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
When it comes to the talented lot of Flyers forwards, Matt Read was undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of last season. Early in the season, a sharp decline in his play led spectators to wonder if he was playing through an injury. When it was revealed in January that he had been playing through a high ankle sprain, it certainly did not come as a surprise. When Read continued to play poorly even after that, concern arose that Read might just have taken a big step back in terms of effectiveness. While the struggling winger maintained that he was playing at full strength, it was difficult to tell if that was truly the case. The result was a 2015-16 season that left Read with a lot to prove.
11 games in to a crucial season, Matt Read is well on his way to proving that he is still a very capable forward at the NHL level. The 29 year old is back to being the quick skating, possession driving, defensively responsible forward that Flyers fans had grown accustomed to during his first three years in the league. There haven’t been many positives over the last week and a half for Philadelphia, but Read’s strong play is something to be excited about as the season continues.
EVEN STRENGTH STATISTICS
[All data used in this post is from Puckalytics.com and War-On-Ice.com]
To be honest, you really don’t need numbers to see that Read is back to normal. Just watching one of Read’s many strong shifts on Monday in Vancouver will show you all you need to know. But here are some numbers anyway.
The Flyers, who are currently the third worst shot suppression team in hockey, have given up 58.9 shot attempts per 60 minute with Read off the ice. With Read on the ice, they’ve given up just 54.3 shot attempts per 60. Amongst forwards, only Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl have had a better effect on shot suppression numbers.
The chart below shows how Read has affected shot suppression numbers throughout his career (A negative number is good). While the season is still young, Read seems to have returned to being effective defensively at even strength.
Numbers from Puckalytics.com
On a team that has really struggled to suppress shots, Read’s usefulness in that regard could prove to be extremely valuable, especially if Sean Couturier remains out of the lineup.
In addition, Read trails only Giroux, Raffl and Voracek in terms of raw possession numbers and scoring chance percentage. No Flyers forward has a better Scoring Chance For/60 rate than Read does so far. Read has complimented his defensive play well by tenaciously forechecking and creating chances in the offensive zone.
In limited time, Matt Read has been stellar on the penalty kill as well. Although his time on the kill has diminished over the past 6 games, Read has suppressed shots better than any Flyer not named Sean Couturier or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. His career shot suppression impact of -1.98 CA60RelTm backs up the idea that he is a valuable penalty killer.
His stats from this season are certainly inflated by the fact that he played the bulk of his PK time while both Couturier and Bellemare were still healthy. The point still stands that Read is an above average penalty killer who should be seeing more shorthanded time than he is. His play with a man down so far seems to indicate that he is capable of contributing positively to a penalty kill unit that could really use a boost at the moment.
Matt Read’s injury had a large and negative impact on the Flyers last season. Not only did it seemingly neutralize his important defensive ability, but it limited the effectiveness of Sean Couturier and others. While we’re still just 11 games into the new season, Read has gone a long way towards proving that his step backwards in 2014 was mostly related to injury. With the Flyers going through a brutal slump against mediocre competition, Matt Read’s resurgence is one thing that we can still feel pretty good about.