- Craig Custance
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WHEN COUTURE CRASHED into the boards, then limped off the ice midway through a tied Game 3 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinals, it looked as if the 24-year-old Sharks forward was taking his team's playoff hopes with him. At the time, San Jose was down 2-0 in the series to the defending-champion Kings. But 14 minutes later, Couture pulled a Willis Reed. He skated back out for the final shift of the second period on a sprained ankle, then scored the winner in overtime -- firing a lightning-quick wrister to beat Jonathan Quick glove side for a 2-1 San Jose win. "That would be his defining moment," says Sharks coach Todd McLellan. It was just the latest clutch play for Couture, who emerged as the Sharks' best all-around player last season and earned a five-year, $30 million contract extension in June. So in appreciation of one of hockey's most unappreciated stars, here are five things you need to know about Couture.
1. He was born to play hockey
Logan's mother, Lori, arrived at Guelph (Ontario) General Hospital at 9:30 a.m. on March 28, 1989. Four hours of labor later, Logan checked into the world. His quick delivery meant the nurse on call did most of the work as Couture's doctor tended to other patients. That nurse was Bernadette Devorski, who happens to be the mother of current NHL referee Paul and linesman Greg Devorski. "It's sort of freaky," Lori says. Another sign: At age 4, Logan picked out a pair of Sharks pajamas. "He liked the logo on them," Lori says. "It was weird."
2. But it's not his only sport
Couture's grandfather, Cy Lemon, is in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and an uncle, Brian Lemon, played professional lacrosse. Logan was a top baseball prospect who twice won Canada's Hit-Run-Throw title as a kid -- which prompted his principal to ask for his autograph. But Couture chose to pursue hockey full time at age 13 because his parents were spending nearly $7,000 per season per sport on travel and equipment. "He's the one who stepped up to say, 'I can't continue to do both,'" says Lori.
3. He's a frustrated netminder
"People don't realize how much he wants to play goalie," teammate Joe Pavelski says of Couture, who often jumped between the pipes during hockey games growing up. Perhaps that explains why only one NHL forward blocked more shots than Couture (51) did last season. "Sometimes when I block shots, it's like I'm playing goal," says Couture, a "straight butterfly goalie" who once sat in on a Sharks goaltender meeting and begs McLellan to put him in net during practice. "It's half as a joke and half for real," he says.
4. He can score from anywhere
Couture may long to be in goal, but he's also pretty good at putting the puck there. He scores in a variety of ways, but his sneaky quick release is most dangerous from the neutral zone. His average even-strength slap-shot distance last season was 45 feet, and he scored most of his even-strength goals (8) on his wrister, from an average of 31 feet. "He gets shots off in different ways," says Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. "That's what makes him so tough to stop. It's very deceptive. When he shoots, it gets on you a lot faster than you'd expect."
5. His game does his talking
He may be the new face of the Sharks, but the soft-spoken Couture isn't likely to be their voice -- unless he's singing. Should he ever DJ in the dressing room, expect to hear a lot of Drake, a fellow Canadian and Blue Jays fan. "Drake can sing, he can rap and I like the lyrics," says Couture, who often tweets Drizzy's lyrics to his almost 157,000 Twitter followers and occasionally even croons along -- quietly. "He keeps it kind of low," says teammate Jason Demers. "I wouldn't say he's Michael Jackson, but he's not terrible."
In ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview Issue, Craig Custance reveals the five things you need to know about San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture.