Pucks in Depth: On Sean Couturier’s Bid For The Selke, And Auston Matthews’ Electric Start
On Sean Couturier's bid for the Selke and Auston Matthews' electric start
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Sean Couturier is out for a Selke

Couturier put together an elite two-way campaign in 2018-19. He was very good offensively in terms of both volume and efficiency. Defensively, very few matched his impact. He ranked 1st among Flyers forwards in shot attempts against/60 and 2nd in expected goals against/60. His -5.6 relative shot attempts against number was 5th best among 131 forwards to log at least 1,000 minutes at 5v5. He was a beast and certainly deserved real consideration for the Selke. He wasn’t a finalist.

Couturier’s bid to change that in 2019-20 is certainly off to a great start. It’s only been two games, mind you, but it’d be hard – if not impossible – for him to play any better than he has.

With Couturier on the ice at 5v5, the Flyers have out-attempted opponents 38-16 (70.37 CF%), out-chanced them 27-8 (77.14 SCF%), and out-scored them 3-1 (75 GF%). Those are insane numbers vs any competition.

When you consider who Couturier has been playing against, it’s almost shocking to see the level of success he’s enjoyed.

Take a look at Couturier’s most common opponents and the results he garnered against them.

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Amazing. Couturier helped the Flyers get two of every three chances against the elite Patrick KaneJonathan Toews duo. He followed that up by completely neutering 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and the Devils’ top offensive weapons.

If this is any indication of what’s to come – it is – Couturier will no doubt contend for, if not win, some hardware at the next awards ceremony.

Auston Matthews off to an electric offensive start

For years Matthews has been the best 5v5 goal scorer in the NHL. It’s not even up for debate. Despite missing ~30 games since entering the league, nobody has scored more at 5v5. Naturally, he also leads the way in efficiency by a decent margin.

The key for Matthews to take that next step and contend for a Rocket Richard – beyond staying healthy – was power play success. He needed to do more.

So far, he has. He has potted two goals in ~16 minutes of power play time and his usage suggests we can bank on that continuing. 

Matthews has already piled up 13 shot attempts on the man advantage. Only two players – Alex Ovechkin being one of them – have registered more, and Ovechkin has spent nearly 11 more minutes in his office.

It’s clear new power play coach Paul MacFarland is making Matthews the featured piece. He has taken 33.33% of the shot attempts he’s been on the ice for, compared to 26.15% last year. I realize it’s a five-game sample but it sure looks like the Leafs are trying to put Matthews’ shot to use as much as possible.

Should that continue, the sky will be the limit for his goal output.

Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com

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