In recent games against the Penguins, coach Craig Berube has been matching Sean Couturier primarily against Sidney Crosby, and the results have been pretty darn good. Yesterday, in particular, was amazing.
We all remember the 2012 playoffs when then-coach Peter Laviolette consistently matched Sean Couturier against Evgeni Malkin. The result was awesome, with the rookie forward making one of the best offensive players in the league look like a child.
Since then, there have been a number of changes and Couturier is finding himself playing against Crosby much more often. Berube explained that he's changing the way he uses Couturier against the Pens based on a "feeling," and it seems his gut instinct is paying off.
Our own Collin Mehalick got in a bit of a tussle with the folks over at Pensburgh a couple of days ago about how successful the Couturier-Crosby matchup has been for the Flyers. I'll spare you the details, but the gist is that since Crosby had better overall possession stats at their meeting back in November, Pens fans think Berube made a bit of a coaching snafu. Collin rightfully disagreed, noting that Couturier suppressed Crosby sufficiently and made him a relatively worse possession player than his fellow Penguins.
But what about yesterday's game?
If we're being honest here, the only way to really describe Couturier's play against Crosby is "utter domination." In the time that those two were both on the ice (at even strength), Couturier's line generated 14 shot attempts compared to Crosby's seven. Another way to put it is that any given time you looked at the game when both players were on the ice, there was a two-thirds chance that the Flyers would generate a shot attempt. That's pretty damn good if you ask me.
Couturier also played above average against Crosby when compared to other forward matchups he experienced throughout the game. The table below shows Couturier's shot attempt percentage depending on which Penguin was on the ice. As you can see, he did almost ten percentage points better against Crosby than he did against the average player.
|Matchup||Shot Attempt Percentage|
Of course, we shouldn't put too much stock in the above table given sample sizes. Plus, I'm sure that if Couturier spent more time matched up against Craig Adams, his shot attempt average would get a nice bump. Still, it's nice to see that his time against Crosby is pulling that average up and not down.
I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that Sidney Crosby is perhaps the most offensively gifted hockey player in the world right now. The fact that Couturier outplayed him so handily yesterday should make all Flyers fans really freaking happy.
Head-to-head shot attempt totals via Kurt.