Where would the San Jose Sharks be without Logan Couture?
They’d be a lot worse than 5-5-1, that’s for sure.
The captain came through once again for the Sharks, registering a goal, assisting on Evander Kane’s game-tying goal, and then scoring the shootout game-winner in San Jose’s 4-3 victory over Los Angeles. All this while pacing forwards on both teams, including the tireless Anze Kopitar, in ice time at 23:15.
“He was our best player tonight,” Bob Boughner said.
It’s been a good week for Couture in Southern California: On Friday, his early third period strike jumpstarted the Sharks’ comeback win over Anaheim; the following night, he scored San Jose’s lone regulation goal in a 2-1 shootout loss.
In a challenging season for the San Jose Sharks – most of their name-brand players have been inconsistent and they’ve been on the road for 39 of the last 43 days – Couture has been a pillar of strength.
“He’s dealt with a lot with training camp, being our NHLPA rep, and the play on the ice. He’s handling it unbelievably. He’s a guy who just shows up to play the right way every night. Playing against the other team’s best players most times,” Boughner offered of his second-year captain. “He’s a lot more vocal [this year]. He’s evolving into a great captain.”
But will Couture get any help? He certainly did tonight.
A lot of credit goes to Couture’s much-maligned linemate Kane. Since reuniting with Couture in Anaheim, Kane notched a game-tying shortie on Friday, was the catalyst for Couture’s goal on Saturday, and muscled the Sharks into overtime tonight.
Even more promising for San Jose, it wasn’t just one line carrying the load tonight. Timo Meier added a goal, off a Tomas Hertl and Ryan Donato forecheck, and fourth-liner Patrick Marleau played, according to Couture, his best game of the season.
Up and down, this might’ve been the Sharks’ most complete four-line game this year. This bodes well for a team that has struggled to get more than a couple lines going on a nightly basis.
Second Period Stink
It’s been a big story since the San Jose Sharks surrendered three unanswered goals to the Ducks in the second period on Friday, blowing a 1-0 lead: Do the Sharks have a second period problem?
Their last two appearances have done nothing to dispel the notion, at least on the scoreboard. On Saturday, leading 1-nil, they gave up a middle frame goal to tie the game. Tonight, leading 2-0, they gave up a pair of second period goals to tie the game.
San Jose has been outscored a mind-boggling 20-5 in the second period this season.
But I wouldn’t be too worried about this anomaly: Even a shortened season will have many ebbs and flows.
Instead of the goals against, I’m going to concentrate on the generally solid second period hockey at 5-on-5 that the Sharks have played over the last two contests. Per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose outchanced Anaheim 9-6 and 3-2 High-Danger in Saturday’s middle frame; they were outchanced by Los Angeles 5-4 and tied 3-3 High-Danger tonight.
These are both contests where the Sharks outscored and outclassed their opponents in the first period; a response was inevitable, and they managed it well enough…at 5-on-5. Instead, they were undone by other things, some bad luck and things very much in their control. On Saturday, it was a double-deflection Isac Lundstrom goal. Tonight, it was a bad Brent Burns read that led to a Kopitar breakaway and three consecutive penalties.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in the second,” Boughner said.
But it wasn’t a case where San Jose was roundly outplayed. Right now, they’re on pace to get outscored by 76 goals in the second period – that’s not going to happen.
A disappointing 2019-20 season seems to be in the rear view for the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks haven’t been great by any stretch – probably not even good – but they’ve consistently responded to adversity, unlike last year’s edition.
“That’s the thing I’m most proud of so far,” Couture said. “We’ve put ourselves in tough positions, whether it’s 3-1, down to the Ducks and coming back, or tonight, where we give up one and find a way to score.
“Definitely proud of the way we’ve fought to the end in most, if not all these games.”
They responded to series-opening losses to St. Louis and Minnesota with victories. After being completely outclassed by Colorado in that series-opener, they managed to keep the rubber match competitive.
And as Couture noted, they came back from third-period deficits against Anaheim and Los Angeles for comeback wins.
If you can believe it, these two third-period comeback victories already match San Jose’s entire 2019-20 output in this category: There’s no doubt last year’s Sharks were a front-running squad.
Martin Jones is optimistic: “It’s a good sign.”
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