San Jose Sharks scorer Logan Couture emerging from the shadows of superstar teammates
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Unmistakable on the TV in the corner of the San Jose Sharks' dressing room Saturday afternoon was a Toronto Blue Jays game, courtesy of you know who.
That's a staple on a daily basis during baseball season. Logan Couture makes sure of it.
To suggest he's a fan of the Blue Jays is an understatement.
"Super fan, super fan," Couture said with a smile on Saturday when asked to describe his level of Blue Jays fanhood.
He's a Blue Jays junkie, is what he is.
"He's got it on the iPhone, the iPad, on TV, all at once, checking the box score," said teammate Tommy Wingels, a Chicago native who loves the Cubs.
Like it or not, with Couture manning the remote, the Sharks are Blue Jays central.
Which would be fine with the rest of his teammates if it weren't for a little annoying habit of Couture's.
"The whole team will be watching a Blue Jays game, and he'll ruin what happens for everyone else," Wingels explained. "He finds out what's happening about three seconds before the game on TV, and he ruins it for everyone. It's same when we're watching the Cubs. I'll be watching it on video, the feed is like 15 seconds delayed, and he constantly refreshes his phone and says, 'Hey, he got out here.'
"He's a diehard fan, but he ruins it for other people."
Wingels was speaking tongue in cheek, of course, for the reality is that Couture is a popular player in the room.
"Very sports-passionate guy," said teammate Joel Ward. "He loves the Blue Jays, he loves the Buffalo Bills. Just a fun guy to be around. Some people might think he's a quiet guy, but he's definitely a fun guy to be around, a good guy to have on your team, and he loves his sports."
So much so that Couture is building a man cave back at his home in London, Ontario.
The man cave can wait. There's still hockey to be played, with Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on tap Sunday (8 p.m. ET) at SAP Center and the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who lead the series 3-2 -- getting another chance at clinching a championship.
Not if Couture has any say in the matter. And there might not be a better skater on this team right now than the 27-year-old Couture, his 29 points (9-20) in 23 games leading all playoff scorers. If the Sharks come back to win the Stanley Cup, Couture will be a front-runner -- along with goalie Martin Jones -- for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Either way, his outstanding playoff run has helped him once and for all step out of the shadow of stars Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton as far as the kind of outside recognition he also deserves to be getting.
"Couture definitely gets overshadowed by the two big guys on the team," St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said via email Friday. "I do think his chemistry though, with [Patrick] Marleau and [Joonas] Donskoi fits his style better. They all work really well in the trapezoid area making small plays around the net."
Shattenkirk saw a lot of that Marleau-Couture-Donskoi line in the Western Conference finals, the injury to Tomas Hertl in the Cup finals sending Donskoi to the top line with Thornton and Pavelski and now Melker Karlsson skating with Couture and Marleau -- a unit that was terrific in the 4-2 Game 5 victory at Pittsburgh, Couture netting a goal and two assists.
"A few of his strengths in my mind are his reads on the forecheck (using contact vs. anticipating where the puck is going)," continued Shattenkirk in his email to ESPN.com. "He also is great at shooting for rebounds, especially off the rush. His shots seem to create a lot of second chances. Over the last few years I think he has become a much better defensive forward. He isn't a big body but uses his stick and body position well in the defensive zone."
High praise indeed from a rival whose season ended at the hands of Couture and the Sharks last round.
The fact is, the Sharks were not the same without Couture earlier this season, when he missed 30 games with a right leg injury.
"Well, huge," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday when asked about Couture going down early in the year. "I think when he went down, we were 4-0. We had a great start to the season. We felt guys were slotted in the right spot. It was a catastrophic injury, it really was. There was talk at some points there he might miss up to six months."
On the flip side, DeBoer said, Couture's absence, though impactful, allowed the Sharks to look at other players such as Hertl at center and young Chris Tierney to get a bigger role.
Still, the Sharks went 14-15-1 without Couture and 32-15-5 with him in the lineup.
He actually came back from the right leg injury for two games Dec. 8-9 before going down again for three weeks. It was scary.
"Internal bleeding in my leg, in my quad from an artery that had split open somehow from taking a hit," he explained Saturday. "We flew back home and my leg just kept swelling bigger and bigger. So they had to stop the bleeding somehow. They were able to do that fortunately before it got worse. My leg was just continuously filling with blood and it could have gotten to the point where you don't know what's going to happen, if you're going to lose your leg or die. So they caught it pretty quickly, which was good."
The Sharks wouldn't be here if he hadn't healed.
So good has been his playoff performance that some people were surprised he didn't get the nod on May 27 from Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey roster. But he was certainly on the radar.
"I mean, they called me, they said, 'You're right there.' So it's an honor to be that close," Couture said.
The one thing you learn quickly after being around Couture for a while is that if you ask a question, he will give you the raw, unvarnished truth.
Get him after a loss, especially, and you're in for a few headline quotes. Like when he suggested Sidney Crosby was cheating on faceoffs after Game 2.
"I mean, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you guys," said Couture, shrugging. "You ask a question and I will answer it honest. It's what you're taught when you're young, right? Answer everything honestly."
In the dressing room, however, he leaves the talking to other leaders.
"I try to lead by example, I'm not the type of guy that yells and screams in the dressing room or anything like that," he said.
The playoff-leading 29 points, meanwhile?
"It's nice, but it's a personal thing," he said. "We've got bigger things that we're looking at."
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