Sharks vs. Penguins, Game 5: Logan Couture comes up large again
If the Sharks come back to win this series, it’ll largely be thanks to the stellar play of Martin Jones. The second player on the Sharks Conn Smythe short list has to be Logan Couture. He tallied three points on Thursday night to pad his large points lead this postseason and continues to drive play for San Jose.
Barring a couple of incredible games from Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns or Phil Kessel it’s very likely Couture will finish with the most points in the 2016 postseason. He has nine goals and 20 assists, the latter of which is the most in the NHL during the second season.
Beyond the stellar point totals, Couture has helped the Sharks maintain critical offensive zone time against a Pittsburgh team that has really dominated the possession game. While Couture’s possession numbers in game five (like the rest of the Sharks) didn’t impress (-7 at even strength), he made plays to set up three of the Sharks four goals.
Couture picked up a secondary assist on the first goal of the game and scored his ninth goal of the postseason shortly thereafter. That goal was a great example of the Sharks hustling around the Penguins zone to make something happen.
Couture battles below the Pittsburgh goal line and while he doesn't gain possession of the puck he’s able to keep the play alive. Both Patrick Marleau and Melker Karlsson also factor in here and eventually the puck is worked up to Justin Braun at the point. By now, Couture has drifted towards the front of the net and seemingly easily tips the puck past Matt Murray.
Couture's second assist of the night was a beauty. Brenden Dillon throws the puck down to Couture, who backhands it to the scoring area where Karlsson easily wrists the puck past Murray.
He also played key minutes on both the Sharks power play and penalty kill and finished with 19 minutes on the night. That was second only to Joe Pavelski amongst forwards as Couture’s versatility allowed head coach Pete DeBoer to use him all over the ice.
The second unit of Marleau-Couture-Karlsson was on the ice for three of the Sharks’ four goals and only one goal against. That unit seems to have found something while playing primarily against the Evgeni Malkin line that other forward corps haven’t.
Couture and Marleau’s skating ability may make them the Sharks' best option against the Penguins’ speed. For San Jose to win two more games this series, Couture will need to remain a factor. If Thursday night’s win is any indication, we’re in good hands.