The Sharks defeated the Canucks 5-2 Sunday night to take a 3-0 lead in the series and force Vancouver to the brink of elimination. The series has been dominated by the Sharks, who have been both relentless on defense and timely on offense. San Jose scored three goals in just over two minutes in the third period Sunday, including two goals in nine seconds.
The scoring has been led by Logan Couture, who is making his presence in the NHL felt here in the playoffs. The 24-year-old added two goals and two assists Sunday to take his playoff total to three goals and three assists through three games.
Couture is quickly making a name for himself on the elevated playoff stage, as well as in the Sharks locker room. At his best, Couture is one of the league’s best young players, and that has only been amplified in the first three games of the NHL playoffs.
In the locker room, Couture has also been upping his reputation as well.
With Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski all becoming free agents after the 2014 season, Couture is widely regarded as the player most likely to be given the reins in San Jose. His offensive consistency that translates effortlessly from the regular season to the playoffs is a large reason or the Sharks’ faith in their young superstar for the future.
However, the defense has obviously been the biggest reason for the Sharks’ newfound playoff success. So many years built around scoring and playmaking on offense has been turned into a shutdown defense with a consistent and healthy winner in net in Antti Niemi.
San Jose’s penalty kill continues to be the main momentum booster for the team on defense. The Canucks, with all their offensive firepower, have gone 1-of-7 on the power play in the first three games of the series—a success rate not many winning teams have had in the NHL playoffs. Credit that to Sharks assistant coach Larry Robinson, who has turned the Sharks’ penalty kill from being nearly the bottom of the NHL to the top in a little over half a season.
This is the new identity of the Sharks—a gritty team that can shut down opposing offenses with their relentless defensive pursuit of the puck. It is a far cry from a team built around the likes of Thornton, Marleau and the offense.
And while that makeup has accumulated some success in the playoffs in past seasons, it never had an effect or made a lasting imprint on the league like San Jose’s defense is doing at the moment.
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