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Right Place, Right Time For Couture

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Baseball Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey, the man who helped Jackie Robinson break the game’s color barrier, once said, “Luck is the residue of design.”

Logan Couture won’t argue with that statement.

For the record, Couture had one shot in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit.

But that was one impressive – and lucky – shot. Not lucky in the sense of getting the right bounce, but lucky because he worked for the opportunity and was in the right place at the right time.

At 19:01 of the first period, San Jose was fighting hard for the puck to the left of Detroit’s net. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg came out with the puck to the right of the net, but had Couture chasing him. Zetterberg avoided him and tried a backhand pass from the goal line to Brian Rafalski on the left wing.

But there was Couture in the circle to intercept the pass and he threw a quick wrister to the right corner of the net and past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.

“Zetterberg turned the corner, turned it over and he made a mistake. He doesn’t make many,” Couture said. “It was right on my tape and I shot it before Howard could get set and went top corner.

San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, left, controls the puck as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall chaes during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
“I was surprised,” he added. “I shot it as quick as I could. I’ve tried to shoot glove on Howard this entire series because I think I can beat him there.”

While Couture’s goal won’t necessarily make him a hero like Jamie Baker, who scored the series-clincher in Game 7 of the 1994 quarterfinals vs. Detroit, this goal had importance. Not only did the goal give San Jose a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission, but those late period goals have a way of swinging momentum towards the scoring team.

This goal is just one of many memorable moments for the 22-year-old Couture. During the season, he was among the National Hockey League goal scoring leaders with 32. Couture is also the 23rd rookie to ever score 20-plus road goals (23, the second-most in Sharks history). To top it all off, he’s a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the League’s rookie of the year.

Sure, he seems cool on the outside. He’s a frequent contributor to Twitter and he’s one of the most quotable Sharks players. When asked yesterday about how to approach tonight’s Game 7, Couture was the one who said, “You have to be confident in this game and not let anything affect you. You have to be borderline arrogant to play this game.”

Perhaps top professional athletes have to think that way to be successful. But they are human. Just ask Couture how he was on the bench late in the game.

“It’s a different game out there in the playoffs. It’s so intense,” Couture said. “There were times on the bench where I caught myself shaking. I was so nervous. It was pretty crazy. I never felt like that, that’s for sure.”

And if he was nervous, just imagine how his parents, Chet and Lori, were back home in Ontario.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton celebrates after the San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“They’ve probably sent me about 20 texts right now,” Couture said. “Dad is probably running around the house still and they won’t be able to sleep tonight.”

And if Couture’s parents want to watch him play in Vancouver, at least this time they won’t have to worry about having an expired passport, like they did when they tried to attend Game 3 of the conference semifinals in Detroit.

Maybe earning the right to play Vancouver was another case of “luck is the residue of design” too.

Joe Thornton had one assist in Game 7 on Devin Setoguchi’s goal that started the scoring. But in his 22 minutes, Thornton did other things to help the Sharks win.

He won 60 percent of his faceoffs and while he didn’t get the assist on Patrick Marleau’s third period goal, he started the play by getting the puck out of the defensive zone to Dan Boyle.

“The passion that he played with tonight is a clear example of what Jumbo brings to our team,” Setoguchi said. “He’s our captain. He’s got to be our catalyst. He worked extremely hard tonight and it rubbed off on everyone else.”

“That was a great pass,” Ryane Clowe said of the pass from behind the goal line to Setoguchi in the left slot for his goal. “But the play in the third, where he didn’t get the assist, that’s where you need the poise and composure from your leader. He settled the puck down in our own end and made a great play that led to a 3-on-2 goal.”

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