That in itself would make the centerman worthy of a focus, here on sjsharks.com.
But instead - I want to elaborate on all of the little things the stat sheet does not tell you about Logan.
Last outing is a perfect example. Early in Saturday night's game against Calgary, Couture took a high stick from Brodie (as in T.J., not me). It cost him parts of three front teeth. Logan went off for repairs but came back in the period.
In the second stanza - after Todd McLellan had surely given his team a stiff talk inside the dressing room - Logan comes out and scores a quick goal less than 20 seconds into play. His team responds by getting two more quick ones, and takes a 3-2 lead.
Then in the 3rd period, Couture pays the ultimate sacrifice on defense, extending his right skate boot to block Mark Giordano's whopper from the point. He later said it got him right where the "shot blocker" did not protect, and before even getting back on his feet, Logan continued defending on the play from his rear end.
San Jose ended up losing that one 4-3 in overtime. And during his postgame interview scrum, Logan went out of his way to tastefully, yet tactfully, yet accurately point out how team defense has been failing lately. The honesty and precision in pointing out what went wrong, in such a short time after the game and all of the emotions, was actually refreshing.
I have watched every single contest that Logan has played in the NHL: 343 in the regular season, plus another 56 in the playoffs. And in those 399 games, I could come up with dozens upon dozens of other examples where Couture showed relentless drive, selfless risk-taking, and an unusual passion to win.
In the bigger picture, things haven't all come easy for Logan. He was an NHL All-Star in 2012... picked last. He was a nominee, likely a finalist to be on Team Canada's 2014 Olympic roster... but ended up getting snubbed. And when San Jose decided on 4 alternate captains this season... Logan was not one of them.
But as you can see, Logan has not let any of this slow or stop him. At 25 years old, Couture should have a lot of hockey left. And hopefully the best rewards are still to come.
- Say what you want about the Toronto Maple Leafs but they play an entertaining brand of hockey. Lots of scoring chances, some good hits and lots of emotion that led to some good ol’ nastiness on the ice. Of course, I’m not cheering for the Leafs so whether they win or lose is irrelevant to me unlike their passionate fan base that are screaming (literally) for a playoff contending team. The Leafs, by the way, have missed the playoffs 8 of the past 9 years.
- If Marleau and Nieto use their speed to crash the net like they did vs the Leafs it is going to open up all kinds of ice for Thornton who will inevitably get the puck to them.
- Tyler Kennedy has looked really good in the two games back since missing 15 games with an upper body injury.
- Justin Braun continues his steady play with tremendous defense and he chipped in with 2 assists vs the Leafs and was named the 1st star of the game.
- What happened to the Pacific Division? Two years ago it was considered the best division in hockey. The Sharks currently sit 2nd in the Pacific with 53 points but that point total would only be good enough for 4th place in the Metropolitan Division and 5th place in the Central and Atlantic. Then again we all know we can’t take stock in the LA Kings regular season point totals – fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us! Come playoff time the Pacific Division turns into possibly the toughest division to get out of!
- The past week all the Sharks pro and amateur scouts convened in San Jose for some mid-season meetings. I mentioned on a broadcast that they attend 150 to 200 games and an old friend and scout sent me a direct message on Twitter saying “If they are not going to 300 games and spending 200 nights in a hotel they are working part-time.” Love it! Point is, scouts are the backbone to an organization, have a great eye for talent and they are good old school guys in a very tight-knit scouting community. Good people them scouts are … safe travels guys and keep up the awesome work!
Who is the Sharks best defenseman? It seems like a simple enough question but coming up with an answer isn’t that easy.
Part of the answer lies in what defines a good defenseman. Is he solely a player who should be judged on his defensive play or does the offense he provides also factor into the equation?
Some would argue that Marc-Edouard Vlasic is the Sharks best defenseman. Head Coach Todd McLellan typically has Vlasic on the ice against the opponents’ top offensive players. Vlasic leads the team in +- rating at +12 and he has respectable offensive numbers with 6 goals and 14 points including 3 game winning goals. He was also named to Team Canada’s Olympic squad last year in Sochi and came home with a gold medal around his neck.
Others might offer that Brent Burns rules the San Jose blue line. Burns is one of the NHL’s top scoring defensemen with 11 goals and 35 points. His 24 assists are just 1 behind team leader Joe Thornton. Burns has a booming shot. It’s a weapon. He’s also a key to the Sharks power play where he’s scored 4 goals and he has 2 game winners. But at -8 Burns has one of the poorer +- ratings on the team. Depending on how much value you place in that statistic it may diminish his reputation as a top defender.
When the NHL named its 2015 All Star representative from the Sharks it named Brent Burns. Does that mean the league regards Burns as a better defenseman than Vlasic? I’m not sure. Perhaps Burns was being recognized as much for his personality and admirable community work as he was his play this season.
One thing that is certian is that the Sharks have a good problem when it’s unclear who their best defenseman is and they have two very good ones. And when they are paired together on the ice as they have been recently in games, it’s a big problem for the opposition.
We are now 43 games deep into San Jose's campaign. And although he has only played in the most recent 14 contests, I think it's safe to recognize Melker Karlsson as the biggest surprise for the Sharks, this season.
Before we go any further, I say "surprise" with full respect - he was certainly scouted, signed, and promoted for what San Jose's eyes saw in him. But to collect 10 points in your first 14 NHL games... and be promoted to the top line... and get power play time... I'm not sure anyone could have seen that coming.
Currently, Melker is on a 5-game goal streak, which ties him for the rookie franchise record with Jeff Friesen (1994-1995). He scored a beautifully redirected puck recently, but most of his markers on this current stretch have come from crashing the net. He has come across great opportunities on second chances - specifically the rebounds and loose pucks goalies have been leaving on the doorstep. Karlsson has been rewarded by going to what Todd McLellan describes as the "difficult areas" of the ice. McLellan also once beautifully singled Melker out as being a "puck hunter".
I've gone out and proclaimed Karlsson as the "Melkman" on Twitter and social media. And why not? The Melkman keeps getting the cookies! (Get it?)
But some don't like it. That was a nickname already used infamously by Melky Cabrera when he was a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Furthermore - I've never even asked Karlsson if he's cool with being the "Melkman".
So I propose something different.
Do you know what the name Melker means, in his native Sweden?
It translates to: King.
We should help #68 with a nickname along those lines. Because if he continues at this pace, the moniker will be fitting.
On Thursday night in St. Louis, Head Coach Todd McLellan coached his 500th NHL game. He deserves a big congrats on the milestone for many reasons:
• 64th coach in NHL history to coach 500 games
• He is only the 20th to coach his first 500 with the same franchise
• His 293 wins in his first 500 games in 3rd all-time behind Mike Babcock (303) and Joel Quenville (294)
• He is in his 7th season with the Sharks with a very impressive record of 293-145-62 for a Win % of 58.6% and a Points % of 64.8%
• In his 21 years as a coach he has never missed the playoffs and won an AHL Championship as Head Coach of the Houston Aeros and a Stanley Cup as an Assistant Coach for the Detroit Red Wings.
So what makes Todd McLellan such a good coach? I think I can answer that question using 5 key attributes: Passion, Humility, Integrity, Preparation, and Hockey IQ.
It's what drives any successful coach because they eat, sleep, and think hockey most of the time. Todd loves and respects the game of hockey and his passion is what drives him the most.
It comes from his family that raised him in Melville Saskatchewan. Todd was the ultimate team player when he played and he coaches the same way. He surrounds himself with good people, and does not put himself above the team or the logo that he works for.
Todd is honest and garners respect from his players who continue to play for him and respect him. Todd realizes that hockey, and life itself, is about relationships and how you treat people and uses that model everyday. When we travel from city to city it's remarkable how much respect Todd gets around the league.
I am not saying Todd is the hardest working coach because I know there are other coaches that put in long hours - but I don't think anyone works harder. Whether it's early meetings to go over video, practice plans, meeting with players, or studying game film into the wee hours of the night Todd leads my example with his work ethic and preparation.
Todd has a plan, stays focused on the plan and has an extremely high hockey IQ. I know that other coaches study and use some of the systems that Todd and his staff have used over the years. He processes extremely fast which is mandatory to be a good bench coach at the NHL level and he has an eye for both technical and tactical aspects of the game. You learn something new every time you have a hockey conversation with Todd McLellan.
There are other attributes but those 5 sum up the type of person and coach Todd McLellan is.
Congrats coach on your 500th game - you are in an elite group that have reached that milestone in the top hockey league in the world, the NHL!
Joe Thornton had played in 319 consecutive games for the Sharks when he was injured in Anaheim on New Years Eve, so it was going to be interesting to see how the team responded without him. The initial good news was that they beat Anaheim that night. Three days later the Sharks struggled against St. Louis in a humbling 7-2 loss. They came out flat, put on a brief push late in the first period, and then collapsed the rest of the way surrendering six unanswered goals. They also went 0 for 6 on the power play. Life without Jumbo didn’t look very promising.
But two nights later in Winnipeg, the Sharks other leaders took it upon themselves to respond. Just like they have on other occasions this year when they’ve had less than acceptable outings (Buffalo and Vancouver at home), the team rallied. Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Antti Niemi led the way. And then Marc-Eduard Vlasic stuck a dagger in the Jet’s with a game-winning goal in the dying seconds.
The next night in Minnesota the Sharks had to rally from a 2-0 deficit. Pavelski came through again. So did Tommy Wingels who broke a scoring slump. Rookie Melker Karlsson, who doesn’t look like a typical rookie, scored for a third straight game. Alex Stalock settled down after a shaky first period and the Sharks found a way to get the game to overtime. Then Mr. GWG, Vlasic, scored in the extra frame and the Sharks had another road victory.
It’s not a huge body of work but it’s hugely uplifting to see the Sharks players playing for one another and playing for the coaches. That’s what it feels like. We’ll see how they respond against the Blues on Thursday. And everyone in the dressing room looks forward to the return of Joe Thornton!
Make sure that you’re tuned in to the game tonight in the State of Hockey. It’s sure to be a big one for the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild, for a variety of different reasons.
San Jose recovered nicely from their recent disappointments at home with a strong road performance in blustery, cold Winnipeg last night. The goal by Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 5 seconds to play was certainly one to remember, and it was the second one that he has scored in the closing seconds of the third period.
You remember the first one: on December 20th vs. St. Louis, the Sharks were trailing, 2-1, Antti Niemi was on the bench for an extra attacker, and Vlasic forced OT with passes from Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson with 21 seconds to play. Brent Burns later won it in overtime with a 4-on-3 power play goal.
This time, Karlsson had put the Sharks in front, 2-1, with a nifty give-and-go play from Joe Pavelski and Burns. But Jay Harrison, on a broken play, scored a power play goal to tie it, and everyone was preparing for overtime.
Then, Vlasic got back on the ice. On a brilliant faceoff play, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture combined to get the puck over to Vlasic, who was moving in from his position on the left point. Vlasic’s shot got by goaltender Michael Hutchinson at 19:55, and just as quickly as that, the Sharks added 2 points in the standings and the Jets, who were expecting to add at least 1, added zero.
It should be a great game tonight. Both previous meetings have been decided by a single goal. On Oct. 30th at Xcel Energy Center, Antti Niemi stopped 43 shots as his team faced a season-high 46 attempts on goal. The Sharks led that game, 2-0 and 3-1, before Kyle Brodziak scored twice in the third to force overtime for the Wild. Then, Jason Pominville got the game deciding goal in the shootout.
On Dec. 11th at SAP Center, St. Paul native Alex Stalock got the call for the first time in his career against his hometown team. He made 18 saves, and Joe Pavelski got the game winner for him in the 2-1 victory.
Is Stalock playing tonight? Well, in the immortal words of my former color commentator, Pete Stemkowski, “when they drop the puck, we’ll know.” But if he does get the start, it would be his first-ever NHL assignment in his home state, and that would make it a big night for him.
For the Sharks, it’s a big night either way. They’re at the halfway point of the season, and they’re tied with Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Winnipeg in the increasingly tight Western Conference playoff race. A win would take them into a big game in St. Louis with a chance to sweep a trip and gain ground.
For the Wild, it’s an increasingly desperate situation. They’re 7 points out of the playoff pack, but they do have 3 games in hand on the Sharks, L.A., and Winnipeg. They didn’t play last night. They are going with Darcy Kuemper in net, and they’ll be without Nate Prosser (sick) on defense.
While tonight’s game is nationally televised on NBC SportsNet, we appreciate the fact that many fans would like to have a local broadcast that is in synch with the TV picture. We have that option for you on the San Jose Sharks Radio Network. Our coverage begins on affiliate stations and sjsharks.com at 4:30, and flagship station 98.5 KFOX joins us at 5:00. To synch up the radio feed with what you see on TV, we have directions right here on our website:
Enjoy the game, and the rest of the road trip! I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
On Saturday night, Joe Pavelski scored his 20th goal of the season. Which is a milestone he has reached six times now, with San Jose. It's an accomplishment that puts Pavelski alongside the names Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Owen Nolan... guys who someday should have their numbers hanging in the rafters.
This season, what's equally impressive to how many Joe has scored... is how he is scoring them. Of the 20, six have come on quick releases such as one timers. Another six have come on redirects or tips.
Joe recently gave me his perspective on that breakdown.
"The goalies are so good that it's got to be a bang-bang play. If it isn't a tip or the first shot, it's usually the second one laying there where you have an empty net."
He continued, and got more specific.
"There's lots of times you're looking goalies straight in the eyes and he's making the save, for the most part. Something has to go wrong, so anytime you can change that direction, hit that one-timer quick, there's a few more holes there," said Pavelski.
When the cameras went away, I asked Joe the burning question in my mind.
"Are you telling me... that when say, Vlasic fires a point shot, and you're standing out front of the crease... that you actually have enough confidence and control to redirect that puck to specific corner of the net... or maybe even aim five-hole?...," I said.
Joe's response: "You'd like to think so."
Head Coach Todd McLellan likes where Joe is scoring from, this season.
"For me it's how he works into position. He's got a nose to go to the net. Not behind it. Not in the corner fading away. He's got great hand-eye coordination, and when he's not tipping, deflecting or finding rebounds... he's finding available ice to release the puck," said McLellan.
The stat that is most impressive lies in the calendar year of 2014. Where no NHL player scored more regular season goals than Joe Pavelski. He had 44. Think about it... Kane, Ovechkin, Kessel, Stamkos, Malkin... they didn't score as many as "Little Joe."
"It's an art, it's worked on," said McLellan.
"The way he approaches the game, how he practices, the extras he does before and after. He puts himself in situations he knows he'll be in during games, and works on it. And all of a sudden he's rewarded."
Watch Sharks Pregame Live tonight at 4:30 on Comcast SportsNet California!
Instead of posing a perspective this week, I bring a question:
Who is San Jose's biggest rival?
First, we should probably acknowledge and dismiss all of the auxiliary possibilities.
While there have been plenty of fascinating and meaningful playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings, I'm not sure they can be counted here. Even though Jamie Baker's 1994 goal is still the "biggest in Sharks history", and even though Todd McLellan is a direct disciple of the greatness that is Mike Babcock... geography, and recent conference re-alignment has diminished any growing animosity between Detroit and San Jose.
The Vancouver Canucks have a lot in common with the Sharks. A West Coast team, frequent playoff appearances in the last 10 seasons, and both franchises are searching for their first Stanley Cup. Not to mention, each club has a tech-savvy and passionate fan-base, which has seen each other in the postseason several times in recent years. But for whatever reason, Vancouverites only seem to align their rivalries East-West instead of anything immediately below the border. Meetings with Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg carry the most weight. And because a rivalry has to go two-ways, San Jose is off the list, despite being a division foe.
I'll throw the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes into the same category, here. Fun, competitive, nasty games to watch against San Jose over the years - including respective postseason series since 2000, against each. But one thing which promotes instant rivalry is sustained competitiveness - something which the Stars and Coyotes just haven't timed out well with San Jose's playoff runs in the last 11 years. Phoenix makes the more sense than Dallas, from a geographical perspective but either way - the rivalry "temperature" is not hot enough in these two cities, even though the actual temperatures might be.
Which brings us to the realistic possibilities. And even though Los Angeles and Anaheim are "natural rivals" considering their short driving distance from each other - one of them is likely San Jose's biggest rival, too.
Is it the Los Angeles Kings? Considering the playoffs of the last several seasons (2011, 2013, 2014) there is now much significance in their meetings with San Jose. There is also the upcoming Stadium Series game, which will add a new chapter between the clubs. While LA has distinguished itself amongst the hockey world with 2 Stanley Cups in the last 3 years, they have also been in existence nearly 50 years - essentially twice as long as the Sharks. I know what that "head start" means to the development of franchises, but I'm not sure if it means something to the rivalry. Either way - impressive how San Jose has "caught up", from not even existing in 1990.
So it has got to be the Anaheim Ducks, right? Probably. Orange County and Silicon Valley aren't exactly twins, but each is an important piece of their region. The "Mighty Ducks" and Sharks both entered the NHL at similar times, and found success in "untraditional" hockey markets. There has been only one (unfortunate) postseason series between these two teams, but they have still played enough nasty hockey games over the years for the rivalry to exist.
Who do you think the biggest rival is? Leave your comment, below!
I’m thinking about a phrase that my former broadcast partner Pete Stemkowski always uses at this time of the season. As the teams skate toward Christmas, Stemmer has a tendency to say, “It’s still early, but you’d better hurry up before it’s too late.” In the case of the San Jose Sharks, one of the reasons that they have been on this recent run is that they continue to play as if that phrase applies to them all the time.
Perhaps it does. That’s the focused strategy that is needed in the NHL, and the Sharks are hoping to continue that progress as they face Edmonton and St. Louis to close out what has been a good home stand.
Technically, the Sharks are tied with Vancouver for 2nd in the Pacific Division with 38 points, but the Canucks have a game in hand. That reminds me of a redacted phrase, “(Forget) the games in hand,” that former NHLer Reggie Fleming used to say when looking at the morning newspaper in the locker room. We won’t forget the games in hand completely, but we will note that the Sharks are finding ways to rack up those important points in the standings.
But that brings us back to the focused intensity that the team has been showing and the standings seem to be requiring from everyone. While they’re tied in the points for second in the division, they’re also tied with Winnipeg for the first wild card spot, are only 2 points ahead of Los Angeles for the second wild card spot, and are two points ahead of a team, Calgary, that are on the outside looking in when it comes to the post-season.
When you look at the full NHL standings, make sure that you keep an eye on the “ROW” column, which isn’t normally printed in the morning editions of the nation’s press. That column, which stands for “regulation and overtime wins,” shows San Jose with 15, which is 1 behind Vancouver, and just 1 ahead of Winnipeg, Calgary, and Minnesota.
Yes, it’s the little details that will make the difference. Here are a few:
Joe Thornton has 8-13-21 even strength, which ties him for 11th in the NHL (Tyler Johnson of TB leads with 8-20-28). He leads the Sharks with 8 even strength goals, tied-25th. He’s 8th (56.4% faceoffs). T-24th in NHL with 24 takeaways.
Tommy Wingels is 3rd in NHL hits w/124, 1 behind Cal Clutterbuck (NYI), 20 behind Matt Martin (144).
Antti Niemi has won his last 5 straight games, including the 2-0 victory against Nashville on Saturday. Over that span, he has stopped 92.7% of his shots. In the same span, Alex Stalock has gone 2-1-0 in 3 starts, and has stopped 92.9% of the shots he’s faced. That’s good goaltending, but it’s also indicative of solid play in the defensive zone.
Brent Burns is on top of the team’s list with an average of 23:29 of ice time per game. He’s one of the top scorers among defensemen, as one would expect, and he’s settling in well to a partnership with Brenden Dillon on the blue line. Against Nashville, he played 26:20, was +2, had 3 shots 3 hits, and 4 blocked shots.
Justin Braun leads the Sharks with 56 blocked shots, ranked 32nd in the NHL overall.
Joe Pavelski has 9 goals at home, which tie him for 9th in the NHL, but they’ve come in only 14 games. He’s also 5th in the NHL with 116 shots on goal.
Patrick Marleau is on pace for 18-51-69. The assist total would be 1 shy of his career best, and if he can get over 70 points, it would be the 7th time in his career that he’s reached that mark. He also has 10 hits in his last 3 games, and when he gets involved physically, he usually winds up with more offensive opportunities.
The Sharks look to continue to develop these little details as they develop their team culture, and if they continue that, they’ll be ready to deal with any battle, and they won’t have to worry about the games in hand or hurrying up before it’s too late.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.