Sharks

What your third line center choice for the Sharks says about you

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AP

What your third line center choice for the Sharks says about you

After going winless in their first two games, the Sharks are desperate to find some chemistry.

Head coach Peter DeBoer mixed up the lines the last two days, according to reporters. Tomas Hertl moved back to the wing, this time on the second line with Logan Couture. Chris Tierney centered the third line, and San Jose Barracuda playoff hero Ryan Carpenter centered the fourth.

So continues the revolving door at the third line center position under DeBoer. Hertl and Tierney have both spent some time there in DeBoer’s two-plus seasons behind the bench. Hertl’s got the underlying numbers, while Tierney put up points in the role during San Jose’s 2016 run to the Stanley Cup Final. The lack of a permanent solution, though, has left plenty of room for debate. 

Whether or not San Jose’s current lineup is optimal lies in the eye of you, dear reader. Your view of the whole lineup provides some insight, but your opinion on who the third line center should be says a lot about you.

Tomas Hertl

You’re analytically-inclined, and will tell anyone that will listen. And I mean anyone. You’ve brought former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie’s “Trust The Process” into your daily conversations...unironically. You’re committed to the plans you set, even if the results aren’t immediate or readily apparent. You value the journey as much as the destination, and you try not to lose sight of that. 

Chris Tierney

You tend to go with your gut, and are a big believer in the eye test. First impressions aren’t everything, but impressions in critical situations are. Homework wasn’t (or isn’t) your thing in school, but you placed (or place) supreme importance on exams and standardized tests. When you reflect on your life, you’ll look back on the highs, paying little attention to the lows. 

Ryan Carpenter/Any Other Prospect

You keep an open mind to new solutions, and don’t necessarily need a lot of information to make a decision. Whenever you go to a restaurant, you’re ordering something new off of the menu, even if the restaurant is an old standby. You’re adventurous, but sometimes, that spirit allows you to get ahead of yourself. You’ll give anyone, or anything, a chance. 

Any Center on the Trade Block

You want what you can’t have. The grass is always greener on the other side. You’re constantly keeping your resume up to date and looking up real estate listings in new cities, perpetually angling for the next move. This also means that you’re pragmatic. You don’t let emotion or attachment cloud your judgement, and are willing to cut bait when a decision doesn’t work out. 

Logan Couture is an under-the-radar MVP candidate

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USATSI

Logan Couture is an under-the-radar MVP candidate

After failing to score a point in the first three games of December, Sharks center Logan Couture has caught fire over the last two games. He’s scored four points since Thursday, three of which came in Saturday night’s blowout win over the Ottawa Senators.

There’s reason to believe his streak will reach a third game in Sunday night’s tilt with the Minnesota Wild: Couture’s scored 66 points in 84 career games on the second night of a back-to-back. That includes six in four such games this season, according to STATS.

San Jose has certainly needed that kind of form from Couture, who leads the team in goals (15) points (25), and game-winning goals (3). The 28-year-old has scored or assisted a third of the Sharks’ goals, putting a fifth of them in the back of the net himself.

It’s fairly easy to imagine where the Sharks would be without Couture. An already-anemic offense, the league’s third-worst, would still be sinking amidst the rising tide lifting all boats that is the NHL’s scoring boom.

San Jose, currently holding the third and final divisional playoff spot in the Pacific by a measly games-played tiebreaker, would not be anywhere close to postseason contention. Whether or not the Sharks, boasting one of the league’s thinnest farm systems, should welcome such a development is a discussion for another time.

Regardless, the Sharks’ season would be far uglier without him.

Couture likely doesn’t have the gaudy scoring totals to truly warrant a place in the Hart Trophy conversation. So far this season, however, few players have been more integral in their team’s success than him.

In addition to leading the the team in scoring, head coach Peter DeBoer’s relied upon Couture in every situation. He’s second among Sharks forwards in average total ice time, third among San Jose skaters in total power play ice time, and the third-most used forward on the penalty kill.

It’s unclear whether or not Couture can, or will, continue to shoulder this same offensive burden. His shooting percentage this season (21.7 percent) is likely unsustainable, nearly 10 points higher than his career average.

Yet, even as the Sharks appear to be rounding into form offensively, Couture’s largely driven the bus. San Jose’s scored 29 goals in their last nine games after scoring 46 in their first 19.

Couture’s still been responsible for 31 percent of the team’s goals over the last nine games, compared to about 35 percent in the first 19. That's a subtle decline, but an important one if the rest of the team can improve.

His scoring totals aren’t eye-popping compared to the league leaders, but Couture’s been as valuable for the Sharks as any player has for their team this season. If San Jose ultimately does make the postseason, it’ll be in no small part because of Couture’s early season efforts.

Sharks beat Senators in landslide

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AP

Sharks beat Senators in landslide

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Logan Couture had a goal and two assists to eclipse 400 career points, and Aaron Dell made 25 saves to hand Ottawa its third shutout over four games in the Sharks' 5-0 victory against the Senators on Saturday night.

Tomas HertlJoe PavelskiMarc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson also scored as the Sharks picked up where they left off, earning a convincing win over a struggling team following a comeback victory from three goals down against Carolina on Thursday night.

The Senators took more than 12 minutes to get a shot on goal and were thoroughly outplayed during their 11th loss in 12 games. After showing some grit in an overtime loss at Los Angeles on Thursday, Ottawa reverted back to its poor form in back-to-back shutout losses against Winnipeg and Anaheim.

Craig Anderson made 45 saves in his seventh straight defeat but got little help from his teammates.

Dell was barely tested in the first two periods, and his second shutout of the season was preserved when Vlasic knocked a puck off the goal line during a power play in the third period.

The Sharks had broken the game open by then with two goals in the second. Vlasic beat Anderson from the point just seconds after a San Jose power play ended early in the period for his third of the season.

Joe Thornton and Pavelski then wore down Ottawa on a shift late in the period. Pavelski set up Karlsson, who was left alone in front for his fifth goal of the season to make it 3-0.

Pavelski and Hertl scored on power plays in the third. Couture assisted on both goals to give him 401 career points.

The Sharks got the first 10 shots on goal but were kept off the scoreboard thanks to a couple of big saves by Anderson. Pavelski hit the crossbar, too.

San Jose finally broke through shortly after Ottawa got its first shot when Couture beat Anderson between the pads off a give-and-go with Kevin Labanc for his team-leading 15th goal of the season.

NOTES: Ottawa's Ryan Dzingel fought Marcus Sorensen early in the third period. Alexandre Burrows was given a fighting major and game misconduct later in the period after going at Dylan DeMelo. ... Sharks D Paul Martin (ankle) was sent to the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Martin played Thursday in his first game since Oct. 7. ... San Jose D Tim Heed returned to the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Senators: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Sharks: Host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.