It may have taken a couple months into the season to get there, but the Sharks are finally looking like the competitive team so many hoped they could be. That wouldn't be possible without center Logan Couture, and Tuesday’s road victory over the Minnesota Wild showed why.
Couture has long been one of the Sharks' driving forces, both on and off the ice. He’s a veteran presence, and the most vocal in pointing out the team has work to do when wins are hard to come by. But he’ll also shell out praise when the team does well, as with this last stretch where San Jose has won seven of the last eight games.
Through that same stretch, Couture himself has 11 points including his recent two-goal effort against the Wild. There’s no denying that when the second-line pivot gets on a hot streak, it gives San Jose’s offense a good shot of adrenaline.
Couture did more than find the back of the net twice in Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. According to statistician Darin Stephens, his game-winning goal was his 26th on the road since the 2011-2012 campaign – second only to Alex Ovechkin, who has 28. Tuesday’s contest also marked Couture’s 30th multi-goal game, 18 of which have taken place on the road. That’s quite the boost for a Sharks team that didn’t have a single road win in November.
Additionally, Couture is anchoring one of San Jose’s most productive forward lines on the season. The chemistry with wingers Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier has been unmistakable through the first third of the 2018-19 campaign. The trio may have spent a bit of time apart due to injuries, but found that flow again almost instantly. The way all three skaters worked to set up Hertl’s third-period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday was a perfect example of that.
It isn’t just a surging offense that is helping San Jose along. Couture himself noted after the team’s 7-3 win over the Blackhawks that the Sharks’ improved defensive game is helping carry push the team along.
“You’re always going to score more goals when you’re defending well,” he told the media after that game.
That level of strong defensive play has helped the Sharks’ offense immensely through the last five wins, while the Hertl-Couture-Meier combo has registered 23 points on their own.
The success of Couture and his linemates can continue to pay off as San Jose faces off against some of toughest competition in the league ahead of the new year. The Sharks' upcoming opponent on Thursday, the Winnipeg Jets, are a heavy team on a hot streak. They don't give opposing offenses a lot of wiggle room, and their league-leading power play (30 percent) can make up for any mistakes.
Then, the Sharks face a handful of division rivals after the Christmas break, ending on New Year's eve against the Pacific-leading Calgary Flames. Their plus-27 goal differential is the best in the Western Conference, and their 3.49 goals per game are good for sixth-best in the NHL.
It isn’t exactly an easy road to travel as the calendar flips to 2019, but the Sharks are heading in that direction with a lot of things going their way. And with Couture as part of their offensive tear, this team can continue being successful.