Logan Couture

The Playoff Buzzer: Great Sharks-Blues Game 3 ends with missed OT call

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Blues defenseman Vince Dunn was injured midway through the first period when he was struck in the mouth by the puck and he couldn’t return.

San Jose had a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes and later led by 3-1, but the Blues rallied to a 4-3 lead that they took into the third period.

The Sharks battled back to tie it with just 1:01 remaining in regulation time then Erik Karlsson scored the game-winner due to a missed call.

San Jose Sharks 5, St. Louis Blues 4 (OT) (Sharks lead 2-1)

While the game was ultimately defined by a controversial goal, this was otherwise an excellent, back-and-forth contest. The Sharks took an early 2-0 lead thanks to Erik Karlsson’s first goal of the 2019 playoffs and Joe Thornton taking advantage of a rebound. That early deficit, coupled with Vince Dunn leaving the game after being struck by the puck made it entirely possible that this could have been a blowout win for the Sharks. Instead, the Blues battled back. They scored four goals in the second period, including back-to-back markers by David Perron in the span of just 2:39 minutes to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead. The Blues came so close to carrying that lead to the finish line and almost won the contest on an empty netter that instead hit the post. With just 1:01 remaining, Logan Couture capitalized on a rebound in front of the net to tie the game. Erik Karlsson went on to score the overtime winner at 5:23, but not before Timo Meier made a hand pass that was missed by the referees.

Three Stars

1. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks. So Karlsson’s second goal was obviously marred in controversy, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had an amazing game. He still scored twice while logging an incredible 27:51 minutes. The Sharks acquired Karlsson before the start of the season in the hopes that he might be the missing piece needed to push them to a championship. He’s had to battle injury and probably is playing hurt now, but he’s still managed to be a major factor.

2. David Perron, St. Louis Blues. The second period started with a flurry of goals that left the Blues down 3-2. The game settled for a while after that until Perron got a wrister up and past Martin Jones at 16:03 of the second frame. With the contest tied, Perron blasted a shot just 2:39 minutes later to put the Blues up 4-3.

3. Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues. With Vince Dunn out from the middle of the first period onward, the rest of the Blues’ defensemen had to step up. Not only did Parayko log 29:49 minutes, but he also contributed three assists. That came after he was held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the Western Conference Final.

Highlights of the Night
Joe Thornton had a great game and both of his goals were in part thanks to him being in the right place at the right time. That’s not to suggest that they weren’t high-skill goals though. Thornton did an amazing job both creating opportunities and capitalizing on them, as you can see with his second goal of the game.

The missed call
Of course, this is the moment most will remember from the game. Erik Karlsson scored after Timo Meier made a hand pass. It was a missed call, but it couldn’t be reviewed, so that was the game. Needless to say that the Blues and their fans were understandably very upset.

That said, Blues coach Craig Berube declined to comment on the issue after the game.

Factoids

  • Logan Couture already has 14 goals in 17 games. His latest marker tied the Sharks’ franchise record for most goals in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • With Erik Karlsson’s two-goal effort, the Sharks now have three different defensemen who have had multi-goal games in the 2019 playoffs. The only other team to match that feat were the 1982-83 Boston Bruins. [StatsCentre]
  • Due to Dunn’s injury, St. Louis had three different defensemen record at least 27 minutes of ice time. They were: Jay Bouwmeester (27:51), Colton Parayko (29:49), and Alex Pietrangelo (31:57).
  • The Blues scored their most goals in a single playoff period (four) since the 2000 Conference Quarterfinals. [NHL PR]

Thursday’s Schedule

Game 3: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

The Playoff Buzzer: Blues overcome clutch Couture

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Blues 4, Sharks 2 (Series tied 1-1; Game 3 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; stream here).

The two teams took turns stunning each other during Game 2. First, Schwartz and Vince Dunn stunned the Sharks with two goals, with one coming in the first period and the other happening in the second. Dunn’s goal seemed to awake a sleeping giant, as Logan Couture then stunned the Blues with two goals in two minutes. Bortuzzo’s eventually game-winner was maybe the most stunning moment of the night, while Oskar Sundqvist‘s 4-2 insurance tally seemed to come out of nowhere (although that pass by Alexander Steen was no accident). Binnington was good enough for the Blues to get another road win during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Robert Bortuzzo

This was one of those “more than meets the eye” performances, as Bortuzzo transformed into an unlikely hero.

Bortuzzo’s game-winner stands as the number one reason why he snags this spot over players who were more productive during Game 2. He did more than that, though, as Bortuzzo brought attention to a delay of game penalty, landed a thunderous check on Marcus Sorensen, and blocked a Kevin Labanc one-timer that looked like a golden opportunity for San Jose to tie what was at the time a 3-2 game.

In just 10:37 of ice time, Bortuzzo scored that goal, enjoyed a +2 rating, generated two SOG, two blocked shots, and totaled five hits.

2. Logan Couture

Really, Couture was probably the biggest star of Game 2, though he probably wouldn’t argue too hard for that point since his Sharks lost.

Couture beat Binnington twice in slightly less than two minutes, first generating a shorthanded goal and then beating Binnington after a fantastic outlet pass from Timo Meier. Couture only took six faceoffs in Game 2, but won five of them, while also firing four SOG and delivering one hit, one blocked shot, and a +1 rating. Couture did his part – and then some – but most of his teammates just couldn’t really get much going.

3. Joel Edmundson

The only player other than Couture to score two points was a Blues defenseman, and that blueliner was Edmundson, not Bortuzzo.

Edmundson collected two assists in Game 2, giving him five assists and six points during 13 playoff games. Edmundson’s been heating up in general, really, as he’s generated four of his six points (one goal, three assists) in the last four games.

The Blues’ defensive group combined for two goals and three assists overall in Game 2.

Factoids

Tuesday’s game

Game 3: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes (Boston leads series 2-0; airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET; stream here)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hertl’s contract already looking like bargain for Sharks

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Tomas Hertl has been one of the biggest stars for the San Jose Sharks this postseason, and that is helping to make him one of the biggest steals in the NHL under the salary cap.

Entering Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Monday night (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream), Hertl finds himself near the top of the playoff leaderboards in goals and points while also scoring several season-saving goals for the Sharks, including a Game 6 overtime winner in Round 1 and two of the Sharks’ three goals during their third period Game 7 comeback.

That performance has also made him one of the current front-runners for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (though he might have a tough time surpassing his teammate, Logan Couture, if the Sharks win it all) and comes on the heels of a breakout regular season performance that saw him take a massive step forward in his development and realize pretty much all of his potential.

It also happened in the first year of a four-year, $22.5 million contract that is well below what other comparable players are pulling in right now.

First, just look at the season that Hertl had.

He finished with a career high in goals (35), total points (74), while also recording a 54 percent Corsi percentage. The Sharks not only controlled the pace of play when he was on the ice, but he helped put the puck in the back of the net. A lot. Even better, he did the bulk of that damage at even-strength, not needing to rely only on a ton of power play production to boost his numbers.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

That performance across the board put him in some pretty exclusive company among the NHL’s elite forwards.

Consider the following…

  • There were only 16 forwards in the entire NHL, including Hertl, that topped the 30-goal, 70-point, 53 percent Corsi marks this season. When you look at the salaries of those players, Hertl pretty clearly outperformed his contract.
  • Out of the 16 players in that group four of them (Sebastian Aho in Carolina, Mikko Rantanen in Colorado, Matthew Tkachuk in Calgary, and Auston Matthews in Toronto) were still on their entry-level contracts and making less than $1 million per season against the cap.
  • Among the remaining players that were beyond their entry-level deals there were only two of them that made less than $6 million per season against the cap — Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier, and Hertl. The average salary cap hit for those remaining players (not including Hertl) was $6.9 million per season. Hertl counted just $5.25 million against the Sharks’ cap.
  • It is also worth pointing out that the four entry-level players are all going to see significant bumps in their pay this summer that will put them well above the $6 million mark. Matthews already signed an $11 million per year deal, while Aho, Rantanen, and Tkachuk are all in a position to demand — and get — significant money.

In hindsight it is easy to look at that and think, wow, Hertl really sold himself short on that deal. If he continues to perform at the level he has shown throughout the regular season and playoffs he is definitely going to be playing on a well below-market contract.

But it was not that easy to see at the time of the deal.

When Hertl signed that contract this past summer he had not yet seen his play — or role — blossom the way it did this season. He was obviously a talented player with a lot of upside, and a pretty productive one. He was a fairly consistent 20-goal, 45-point player, and at that level of production was probably doing fairly well for himself at $5.25 million per season.

A lot of things went right for Hertl and the Sharks since then.

For one, he saw a pretty significant increase in his ice-time and went from being what was mostly a 16 or 17 minute per might player, to a 19-minute per night player. An extra two or three minutes per game over the course of a full season adds up, especially for a skilled player that is going to get more chances as a result of it.

He was also entering his age 25 season, which is usually when scorers tend to hit their peak level of production.

And then there was the fact he absolutely shot the lights out all year, scoring on 19.9 percent of his shots during the regular season and 16.4 percent of his shots in the playoffs. That is a significant jump for a player that is usually more of a 10-12 percent shooter. That spike in shooting percentage probably added another 10-12 goals to his total for the season. That number is also probably to regress next season, but even if it does the Sharks are still going to have what should be a 25-30 goal, 60-65 point, possession driving winger in the prime of his career on what still might be a below market contract.

Getting a top-line player for a million or two below the cap isn’t a total franchise-changing move, but every additional dollar helps when building the rest of your team around them. Especially when you are a team like the Sharks that has to deal with some pretty significant free agency questions this summer with Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Couture once again steps up for Sharks in postseason

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Logan Couture got San Jose started in the opener of the Western Conference final against St. Louis by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. He sealed the win with an empty-net goal, and in between, he did everything else the Sharks needed on both ends of the ice.

Just another typical standout performance from Couture, who always seems to be at his best at this time of year.

”Logan Couture, if he’s not the top two-way center in the league, he’s in that conversation,” coach Peter DeBoer said after Couture had two goals and one assist in a 6-3 win over the Blues in Game 1 on Saturday night.

”Plays a 200-foot game, always on the right side of the puck, always making the right reads. When your center is like that, he drives the guys around him to play an honest game like that.”

Couture and linemates Timo Meier and Gustav Nyquist once again led the way for the Sharks, with Meier also having two goals and an assist, Nyquist getting two helpers and the trio combining for a plus-seven rating.

This is Couture’s time of year. Ever since his first postseason as a rookie in 2010, he has shined on the big stage. His 45 goals in the playoffs since making his debut that season are second most in the NHL to Alex Ovechkin‘s 50. He leads the NHL this postseason with 11 goals and 17 points and is one of six active players with two postseasons with at least 10 goals.

But four of those other players have won the Stanley Cup – a goal that has eluded Couture and the Sharks despite making it to the conference finals for the fourth time in his 10 seasons.

”We haven’t won,” he said. ”So I don’t care what my numbers get to be. I could go this whole playoffs and have zero points and if we win the Stanley Cup I’ll be the happiest guy in this room.”

Couture led the NHL with 30 points in the 2016 playoffs, when the Sharks got to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, and he scores at a higher rate in the playoffs than the regular season despite the tougher opponents and more defensive approach.

He has eight game-winning goals in the playoffs and two in overtime, earning the reputation as a clutch player.

”His biggest thing is he doesn’t change his game no matter what the situation is,” teammate Erik Karlsson said. ”I think we all know that these games are more important than the regular season, but that doesn’t mean that the game of hockey is changing. You still have to do the same thing out there to be successful. He’s really good at doing that. No matter what happens out there, he doesn’t let anything affect him, and he’s not trying to do things that aren’t normal.”

While the goals and the points get the attention from outsiders, his team respects him most for aspects of his game that don’t always show up on the scoresheet.

He plays in all situations, including the penalty kill, often matches up against top lines, takes faceoffs, blocks shots and is a leader in the dressing room.

”I think Logan is the consummate ‘I’m not going to tell you, I’m going to show you what my commitment level is,”’ DeBoer said. ”He brings that every night. … I know everybody looks at the goals and where he is in the scoring and the production and what he’s brought offensively. For me, he walks the walk at both ends of the rink. Those are the type of guys you can win with.”

TARASENKO’S STRUGGLES

While Couture delivered for the Sharks in Game 1, the Blues know they will need more from one of their top forwards if they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who led the team with 33 goals in the regular season, was once again mostly a nonfactor in the conference final outside of an assist on St Louis’ first goal. Tarasenko managed just one shot on goal and was on the ice for four of San Jose’s goals.

Tarasenko also struggled the last time the Blues made it this far in the postseason back in 2016, when they lost to the Sharks in six games. He had no points and a minus-four rating in the first five games before finally scoring twice in the third period of a 5-2 loss in the clincher.

”Vladi’s got to work without the puck a lot harder and he will,” coach Craig Berube said. ”He’s got to get more involved. You can’t just wait for things to happen, especially in the playoffs. You’ve got to go get it and you’ve got to go make it yourself. It’s about working and it’s about working with your line.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

The Playoff Buzzer: Sharks double up Blues through Meier, Couture

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  • The Sharks took Game 1 of the Western Conference Final after Timo Meier and Logan Couture each scored a brace to guide San Jose to a 6-3 win. 

Sharks 6, Blues 3 (SJS leads 1-0)

Timo Meier scored twice and added an assist. Logan Couture scored twice and added and assist. Martin Jones made 28 saves. The result? A convincing 6-3 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

The Sharks did it all in the game, creating several turnovers that led to goals and taking advantage of other opportunities as they presented themselves. Couture opened the scoring in the first and closed it in the third while Meier scored back-to-back goals in the second period to propel San Jose to a win.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three stars

1. Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks

The play he made once the puck was on his stick off a turnover was sublime. He caught Jay Bouwmeester standing still and froze Jordan Binnington with the old one-handed backhand trick. Meier’s night would end with a two-goal, one-assist stat line, his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs.

2. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

Couture the Killer scored just 3:31 into the game as Gustav Nyquist dished the puck on an odd-man rush to an open No. 39 for his ninth of the postseason. Couture would add an empty netter in the third end with the same stat line as teammate Meier. Couture has been special in these playoffs, setting the tone for his team, among other things.

3. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks 

It’s hard to believe there won’t be a round (or even a game) where people don’t doubt Jones’ goaltending abilities. His putrid regular-season numbers justify the uneasy feelings some have — as do the early games in Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights. But Jones has been solid since, and he stopped 28 of 31 in Game 1 of the WCF to quell the doubters once again. Jones was tested just seconds into the game when Alex Steen tried to muscle a backhand shot past him. Jones was able to swat out his blocker to make the save and settled in from there.

Factoids

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 2: Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins, 3 p.m. ET (NBC; Live stream)

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions
Conference Finals roundtable


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck