John Smallwood: Flyers rookie Read seems to have broken through the 'wall'

Flyers rookie Matt Read celebrates with a fan after scoring his 19th goal.
Flyers rookie Matt Read celebrates with a fan after scoring his 19th goal. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 09, 2012

MATT READ wasn't going to acknowledge that he could not wait for February to end.

The Flyers rookie puts little credence in the thing commonly referred to as the "rookie wall."

So despite scoring only one goal and recording four points in February, Read said he wasn't worn down by the grind of the longest season he'd ever played.

Before this season, Read, 25, who made the roster as an undrafted free agent, had played a high of only 58 games, and that was in 2006-07, when he was with the Des Moines (Iowa) Buccaneers, of the USHL junior league.

In fact, when Daily News Flyers beat writer Frank Seravalli asked Read about that issue when he set a personal record for games played with his 59th, Read said that, physically, he actually was feeling the healthiest he had all season.

Well, then, maybe the guy just didn't like the Leap Month.

Last night against the Florida Panthers, Read continued to roar into March like a lion by notching the second goal in a 5-0 Flyers victory.

The goal was Read's third in four games during March.

"To score any goal feels good, whether it's your first or your 600th," said Read, who was more inclined to talk about the Flyers' overall success than any individual success. "Scoring a goal is something everyone strives for."

Read had acknowledged being frustrated at recording only four points in a 15-game stretch.

But on March 1, Read had two goals and an assist in a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Obviously, nobody will score every night, but you hate to see those long stretches of games when nothing seems to go in.

And it's a relief when the puck starts snapping the net again.

"It's great to see the puck go into the back of the net," Read acknowledged. "Hopefully, I can keep getting those lucky bounces, working hard and doing what's best for our team."

Maybe Read's approach to his February scoring drought was the best way, because he didn't allow things to get in his head. A slump is hard enough to deal with without giving some cliché an actual mental manifestation.

"It doesn't matter if you are a rookie or not," Flyers 40-year-old veteran Jaromir Jagr said. "Everybody goes through things like that.

"It doesn't matter if your name is Matt Read or Mario Lemieux. Sometimes in this game, whatever you touch goes in. Sometimes, everything you touch, you miss the net, the goalie makes a great save or you hit the post. That's the way it is."

"That's not just hockey. It's baseball or everything."

With 16 games left in the regular season and then the playoffs, having Read scoring goals again, as he did to begin his surprising rookie campaign, would be a big lift for the Flyers.

Read went into last night tied with Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog for the lead among rookies with 18 goals.

He now has 19.

"It's kind of special to lead the rookies in goals, but it doesn't mean much if we aren't winning," Read said. "The main thing is that we keep playing well and doing those small things right.

"I'd rather be winning and having a good season as a team than just having a good season individually."

But Read is only one goal away from a landmark of 20 goals.

"After I got off to a quick start, I did kind of set a goal for myself to get at least 20 goals this year," Read said. "I think we got 16 or 15 games left.

"It would obviously be a big accomplishment to get 20 goals as a rookie. I'm just happy to still be in the lineup and still contributing positively."

The Flyers are so stocked with rookies, they really have little chance of getting to where they want to go without the youngsters carrying their share.

Against Florida, rookies Brayden Schenn and Eric Wellwood also scored.

"It's great," said left wing Scott Hartnell, who scored his 32nd goal. "Rookies or 15- to 20-year veterans like Jaromir Jagr, we've all got to step up and play hard for us to be successful down the stretch.

"In the playoffs, we've got to have everyone going."

And no one can be bothered by a wall.


Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

 

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