How big of a role can Logan Couture
play in the Sharks current playoff run? No one can predict the future, but if Couture can continue to contribute as he did in San Jose’s 5-0 win in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Colorado, he may have a place in Sharks playoff history.
Couture scored the game’s first goal (and his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal) at 8:25 of the second period. All he did was crash the net as Patrick Marleau
brought the puck down the left wing and passed it to Dany Heatley in the high slot. Heatley put the puck on net and Couture tapped it in by following one simple hockey axiom that he knows well. “You’re not going to score,” Couture said, “unless you go to the net.”
Couture scored his second goal at 10:37 of the third period. He scored on an open net after Ryane Clowe
’s backhand shot went off Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson’s pads and onto his stick. “’Clowie’ made a great play on that second goal,” Couture said. “The puck bounced right on my stick and I couldn’t have asked for it to be in a better spot.
“I didn’t expect to score two goals,” Couture added. “To even score one goal in the playoffs is amazing. The second one was extra special. It was good to help the team out. It was a big win for us.”
Couture is one of three rookies (the others being left wing Jamie McGinn and defenseman Jason Demers
) getting playing time during the postseason. In the first four games of the series, Couture had two shots and was averaging slightly over nine minutes of ice time. In Game Five, he had four shots and four hits in 12:18.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the perfect capper to a memorable year for Couture. He made his National Hockey League debut this season and had five goals and nine points in 25 games for the Sharks. Couture earned his NHL chance with a solid year for San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester. He was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team as he scored 53 points (20 goals and 33 assists) in 42 games.
And according to Head Coach Todd McLellan, the time in Worcester was very beneficial for Couture. “It was very good that he almost got to spend a full season in the American Hockey League,” he said. “He got a chance to develop, lead that team and be one of the go-to guys. It’s paid dividends for him.”
Couture has also been fortunate to have a strong support group in the locker room – especially from his linemate and locker room neighbor, Manny Malhotra. “If I make a mistake on the ice, he’s there to tell me,” Couture said. “If I make a good play on the ice, he’s there to tell me. He’s always positive and he helps me a lot.”
Couture wasn’t the only young player who helped give the Sharks a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Avalanche. Couture’s Worcester teammate, center Dwight Helminen, scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal (and San Jose’s third) at 15:30 of the second period.
The 26-year-old Helminen was playing his third playoff game for the Sharks. He was recalled before Game Three on April 18. Before this year, Helminen’s Stanley Cup Playoff experience was limited to just one game with Carolina last season.
Helminen was signed as a free agent by the Sharks over the summer. He spent most of 2009-10 with Worcester and scored 12 goals in 74 games. But he did score once in four games with the Sharks.
“I was hoping,” said Helminen about getting a chance to play in San Jose for the playoffs. “I thought I had a good experience when I was up here earlier in the season. It’s worked out and it’s been a great experience so far.”
Helminen got promoted to San Jose after Heatley was scratched for Game Three because of an injury. “I just want to keep it simple and use my speed,” Helminen said. “I think one of the reasons why they called me up was to bring some speed and that’s what my focus has been.”
And of course, one important person has noticed what the young players have done. “It was important that they contribute and they have,” McLellan said. “Guys like Logan have really had an impact on the playoffs. Tonight, they were rewarded with some goals. They need to continue to bring that energy.”
COLORADO HEAD COACH JOE SACCO
“I don’t think we played well in the second half of the second period. They started to play in the offensive zone. We got caught on some long shifts in our own end, and then our defense wasn’t able to change because the puck wasn’t deep in their end.”
“I feel we got what we deserved tonight. I don’t think we played well enough to win for 60 minutes.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of getting more shots. I think it’s more not giving up as many shots as we did. ”
“This is playoff hockey. We shouldn’t be tired this time of the year. We should be re-energized. The level of play picks up in the playoffs, and at this time of the year you need to find a way to battle through it.”
The Sharks will visit Colorado on Saturday in 7 p.m. PST start that will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.