SAN JOSE Logan Couture might be a little reluctant to flip the calendar to a new year on Sunday.
After all, the Sharks forward had a memorable 2011. He cemented himself as one of the NHLs top young talents, was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the leagues rookie of the year, and is currently the Sharks leading goal scorer in his second full season.
Hes scored nine goals in the Sharks last 13 games, and has been the teams most consistent forward.
Hes one of the most competitive guys Ive been around. He wants the puck all the time, Todd McLellan said.
He gets better every day.
It didnt start out too well in October, though. Couture entered the year firmly entrenched on the Sharks second line, after the team moved scorers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the offseason. The pressure was on his shoulder pads to at least repeat the 32-goal, 54-point performance from his rookie year.
In the first five games, Couture managed a meager two assists and no goals.
I talked with Logan in the summer about what he was going to face coming up, McLellan said. The attention he was going to receive, not only locally, but when we travel to other cities and Canada. Also, from there, the preparation that other teams were going to make for him and his line.
I would say, out of the gate, he wasnt quite prepared for it. But, probably four or five games in, he started to evolve and now its been consistent game-in and game-out.
Since then, Couture has had just one stretch where hes failed to go without a goal in four games.
Every player goes through slumps like that, where they dont score a goal in a certain amount of games, Couture said. Mine just happened to be at the start of the year, and things have been pretty consistent as of late.
Coutures linemate for most of his first two years, Ryane Clowe, credits Coutures mental approach to the game as one of the reasons hes been able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
It was kind of a little but of a test to see how he responded when he went through a slump, and you see, it didnt bother him, Clowe said.
I know first hand how good he is playing with him, and he makes me a better player. Ill admit that right away. Mentally, things roll off his shoulders pretty easily. I know thats easy when youre young, but I think thats just his attitude.
With 16 goals and 27 points in 34 games, and with his production on the upswing, Couture could very well reach the 40-goal plateau this year something only two Sharks have done since the NHL lockout (Jonathan Cheechoo, 56 in 2005-06; Patrick Marleau, 44 in 2009-10).
Coutures not hung up on a number, though.
It would sure be nice. I dont look at it and say I need to score 40 goals this year, but you need to consistently have chances and contribute offensively and well see where I am at the end of the year, he said.
Couture has also reversed an anomaly from his stats last year, in which the majority of his goals came on the road. When he fired a wrist shot past Roberto Luongo in Wednesday nights 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver, it was his 11th goal at HP Pavilion after just 10 there all of last year.
Last year, I cant explain why I scored so many goals on the road, he said. The other team can get their matchup, where at home we get the matchup that we like.
It doesnt matter where the goals are coming, though, as long as they keep going in for the 22-year old as the calendar turns to January.
Im in one of those streaks right now where the puck seems to be following me around, Couture said. Im getting chances and scoring some goals. Its obviously nice to contribute, and hopefully it can continue.