Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin didn’t make an impact on the score sheet in Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers, but his physical play may have helped shift the series further in Washington’s favor.
Ovechkin’s big hit came midway through the second period when he was chasing Sean Couturier through the neutral zone. As Couturier laid a puck back into the middle of the ice that was intended for Brayden Schenn, Ovechkin caught up to the Flyers center and shoved him into the boards. The hit resulted in Couturier crashing into the boards shoulder first, and it was immediately evident Couturier was in pain. He remained on the ice for a few seconds, but was nursing his left shoulder.
Shortly after Couturier got to the bench he headed to the Flyers’ dressing room, and he didn’t return before the end of the frame. As the third period began, Philadelphia announced that Couturier would be out for the remainder of the contest with an upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated Friday.
If Couturier, 23, is out for Game 2 that’s one thing, but losing the two-way center for much longer could make an already difficult task that much tougher. Offensively, Couturier is able to contribute and has shown that — he had 11 goals and 39 points in 63 games this season — but his defensive acumen and shutdown prowess is what makes him so important to the Flyers.
Not a single Philadelphia forward this season faced tougher opposition on a nightly basis, and Wayne Simmonds was the only Flyers forward to start a higher percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone. In addition, Couturier’s possession numbers were among the best in comparison to his teammates, making him an important part of the Philadelphia’s ability to maintain pressure.
With the Flyers already down 1-0 in the series, Couturier will be needed the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, though, he may not be able to go.
UPDATE: According to CSN Philadelphia's Tim Panaccio, Couturier is out of the series with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder.