For a brief moment Friday night, it seemed the Sharks starred in a poorly written sequel.
Joe Thornton was already out with another knee injury, and Logan Couture had just left the game after taking another puck to the face. The sequel appeared to do nothing more than change the timing, as Couture was injured first last season, and in March as opposed to February.
It wasn’t the most creative change, and follow-up films have been funded for far less. But then came the twist: Couture finished out the game, and the Sharks beat the Blue Jackets 3-1.
He told reporters after the game he’ll probably need some follow-up dental work when the team returns to San Jose, but the Sharks otherwise dodged a major bullet. They can’t afford to lose Couture, especially in light of how well he’s played since Thornton’s injury.
In four games without Thornton, Couture leads the team with four goals, including the one he scored Friday. He’s second on the team in points (five) behind Kevin Labanc (six), and is averaging three shots on goal per game, up nearly two-fifths of a shot from his season average.
Half of his shots (six) have come on the power play, as have half of his goals (two). He has twice as many power play shots as Brent Burns in nearly two fewer minutes of ice time over the last four games with an opponent in the penalty box.
With Couture leading the way, the Sharks have stayed red-hot with the extra man in Thornton’s absence, scoring on 36.4 percent of their opportunities. San Jose didn’t have the same success on the power play when Thornton missed the final three regular season games and the first two games of the playoffs.
Then, San Jose converted on just two of its 19 opportunities, including one of 12 in those aforementioned two games of their first round series against the Edmonton Oilers. Couture played in those games, full cage and all, but clearly wasn’t himself.
It goes without saying that any team will falter without its top two centers, and the Sharks unsurprisingly did last season. Being down one, however, doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
Couture’s demonstrating why, even as San Jose doesn’t yet truly have the record to show for it. He’s not going to keep scoring on a third of his shots, as he has in Thornton’s absence, but he can ensure the Sharks are still threatening offensively.
As long as he does, that sequel just might manage a few more surprises.