Since Sean Couturier returned from injury, he has by far been the best Flyer skater. Is that such a surprise?
He’s played in three games since returning in the Flyers’ 7-4 win over the Capitals, and in those three games, he has scored six points. Even after such a hefty layoff, Couturier is still averaging around 18:00 minutes of ice time in all situations per game, and in the midst of team-wide defensive struggles and overall poor play, Couturier is needed more than ever.
From an eye-test perspective, as we all know, Couturier does so many little things well that disrupt the opposition and allow for his line-mates to find themselves in more advantageous positions. This can clearly be seen in Joel Farabee’s goal in the Lake Tahoe game against the Bruins.
First, Couturier makes a good play to take a hit and make a play to keep possession as he moves the puck to his defenseman. He then finds himself on the right-hand side of the neutral zone, and seeing an overload as the two other forwards go in to enter the offensive zone, dumps the puck low to create an advantageous play. Fortunately, the puck bounces right to Farabee who scores, but regardless, Couturier makes two very smart plays on the puck, and he is constantly making plays like this.
Farabee ties it up! Couturier's dump-in bounces to Farabee off the boards. pic.twitter.com/YJFbkOk9WY— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 22, 2021
Those plays speak to how well he aids the Flyers’ in puck possession, and his stats back it up too. Couturier’s Corsi-For sits at 52.29% at 5-on-5, and he is one of the only forwards (other than Morgan Frost and Maxim Sushko, who have each only played in two games) to have a Corsi-for percentage above 50.00%. In fact, additionally, Couturier leads the Flyers in Fenwick-for (Corsi minus blocked shots) percentage at 50.00% exactly.
While it feels amazing to have Couturier back, the Flyers have not been playing particularly well over the last two games, albeit with a patched together roster and suboptimal (outdoor) conditions thrown into the mix. Even so, Couturier has near single-handled given the Flyers chances to win, and he was a big reason why the Flyers managed to lead 2-1 at one point during the Lake Tahoe game.
Hopefully more regular roster players return from the NHL protocol list soon, but in the meanwhile, I couldn’t begin to imagine what the Flyers would look like with Sean Couturier still missing. He’s simply a one-man wrecking crew.
Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick