Sharks Gameday: Logan Couture is a dirty man

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14-9-4, 32 points 11-13-4, 26 points
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Seriously. A filthy guy.

I'm not taking about his mustache, the way his gear smells, or any sort of locker room pranks he pulls on unsuspecting teammates.

I'm talking about the goals he's scored, and continues to score, at the NHL level.

TCY and I had an opportunity to sit down with Couture about two weeks ago to discuss his season, one that has begun to put him on Calder Watch lists all across the country. And although this offseason we predicted he would eventually get the Calder respect he deserved, I don't think even Miss Cleo would have had the foresight to predict 13 goals for Couture at the 27 game mark. He's been billed as a playmaker throughout his entire career-- that's where his bread has historically been buttered, and what made him an attractive prospect for the San Jose Sharks when they drafted him ninth overall during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

To start us off today, here's a snippet of the Couture interview TCY and I forgot to pass along. You can read the full piece on The Fourth Period dot com:

Drew Remenda remarked that the puck just seems to follow you around. Do you watch a lot of film, or is it something that comes through on-ice experience?

LC: It's tough to say, I've heard that a couple times. I try my best to read the play, I think it's one of my best attributes, the ability to follow the play, getting to spots and knowing where it's going to end up. If it looks like it's following me around, that's a good thing. You want to have the puck on your stick to create offense for your teammates and keep the other teams offense from creating chances.

On the same lines, everyone has always said throughout your career that you see the ice really well.

LC: Up here it's so much different, the game moves so fast. The AHL is faster than the OHL, and the NHL is faster than the AHL. Up here things just happen so much quicker, but I think it comes with experience in each league. But as long as I can remember I've always had the knack of being able to read plays.

>> "Q&A with Logan Couture", The Fourth Period

That's really the angle I'm trying to get at here-- the way the puck seems to follow Couture around on every single shift he hits the ice. He's not a skater saturated with speed, his ability to blow past defenseman almost nonexistent. He isn't blessed with extraordinary physical tools, clocking in at 6'1, 200 pounds. And he's not a guy with a whole lot of puck creativity, something that great goal scorers such as Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Marian Gaborik are known for.

And yet he continues to score goals, mountains of them. He's currently tied for the team lead in goals with 13. Correction-- on a team filled with the likes of Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, and Joe Pavelski, Couture is tied for the lead in goals with 13.

So what gives?

Again-- Logan Couture is a dirty, filthy man. Tell all your friends.

After Couture's goal last night in Philadelphia, one that saw him bull his way to the front of the net looking for the rebound like it was a piece of raw meat, it was pretty obvious that a closer look at Couture's goal scoring ability was warranted. Considering the fact that he's finally getting the national attention he's deserved, and was a big part of San Jose's back to back comebacks this week, it's a timely one as well.

When breaking down the plays where Couture scored a goal, it was pretty clear why he has had so much success this season. The young 21 year old may not have the experience of a veteran. He may not have the hype of a Taylor Hall. However, he plays the game with a brain that only five plus years of NHL experience can usually provide.

He's smart. Not necessarily in the field of science or mathematics like whiz kid Jason Demers, but smart in that, "I see puck people" sort of way. The Cole Sear of his generation. A master of finding loose pucks and making opposing goaltenders pay for any ill-timed rebound they have the audacity to give up when he's is on the ice.

Dirty goals. It's a helluva way to make a living.

March 25th, 2010. Devin Setoguchi breaks up the ice, using his strong body positioning to dig his shoulder into the Dallas defenseman and open up some room for himself to get a shot away. Turco manages to keep the puck out, failing to account for the silent assassin trailing the play. Enter Altair.

October 23rd, 2010. Couture gets in hard on the forecheck, breaking up the Edmonton breakout from behind the net and finding the loose puck. A centering feed to Jamie McGinn gets stopped, but not the follow up chance. Just a brilliant hockey play.

November 17th, 2010. Sharks forward Ryane Clowe receives a nice feed from Joe Pavelski, springing him into open ice. Clowe sends a snapshot to the Colorado net, where Peter Budaj makes the initial save. But where there's rebounds there's problems, especially with Couture on the ice.

December 6th, 2010. The Sharks control the play in the offensive zone, and as the puck circles up high to the top of the circles, Couture heads to the front of the net. I've seen Bruce Lee in action Jack, and that ain't no kick. Count it.

Out of the 22 goals Couture has scored during his NHL career, the vast majority of them have been on plays like these. You have deflections, rebounds, kamikaze crease crashing, and just about everything in between. Of course there's the beautiful wrist shots in there, like the one earlier this season where he waited out Calgary goaltender Miika Kiprusoff to rip it up top or his first career goal against Detroit, but he's made his mark on the scoresheet by crashing the crease. By my count he's had nine goals via rebounds, five redirects off various parts of his body, and two from off-angles. Couture understands the value of going hard to the blue paint. It's a dirty part of his game that the rest of the Sharks could learn an important lesson from.

Furthermore, the rate at which he puts shots on net is astounding. Every single game will see Couture log shot totals at the top of the charts, currently placing him third on the team with 93. Seemingly dead plays in the offensive zone will result in a scoring opportunity out of nowhere after a low and hard snapshot from Couture finds the goalie's pads, or his patented spin move to the forehand that makes the release extremely difficult to pick up. Wrap arounds? Don't try and jam the puck in-- goaltenders are too strong nowadays to give up those low percentage shots. Pass the puck off the pads and see if you or a teammate can cash in on a soft and manageable rebound in tight.

It's something he's taken to heart, citing his shot totals as a big reason for his success this season. This is not to say Couture has a below average wrist shot-- it's actually quite comparable to Joe Pavelski's. Both players can come out of nowhere and hum one past a goalie's ear lobe on any given shift, elevating their shot with pinpoint accuracy. It's just that their skill set is more suited to the grittier areas of the game, where hard work and hockey smarts always beats out that flashy raw talent.

Logan Couture is a dirty man. And as the East Coast learned this week, it's about time you tell your friends.

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