UPDATE (4/22): After the Flyers’ Game Six loss today, it was revealed that the “lower-body injury” that kept Couturier out of Game Four was a torn MCL ligament. Yet, Couturier returned for Game Five and Game Six, compiling four goals – the game-winner on Friday and a hat trick this afternoon – and two assists. That’s quite the gutsy performance for the Philly forward and Selke Trophy candidate.
4/18: The Philadelphia Flyers are facing a crucial Game Four tonight, at home and down 2-1 in their first round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but will have to secure the win without a key player. Flyers GM Ron Hextall has confirmed to the media that top line center Sean Couturier will not play tonight, ruled out with a lower-body injury. Couturier was injured in practice yesterday when he collided with defenseman Radko Gudas. The initial word out of Philadelphia was that Couturier would be a game-time decision tonight, with some question as to the severity of the injury versus simple gamesmanship of the Flyers’ part. While questions still remain, it is clear that Couturier has suffered a significant injury if it is causing him to miss a defining playoff game.
Couturier’s loss is a game-changer for this Metropolitan Division series, as the 25-year-old forward is enjoying a breakout campaign. Centering Philly’s top line this season, Couturier posted a career-high 76 points, finishing behind only superstar teammates Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in team scoring. Couturier nearly doubled his previous career-high of 39 points, while seeing little drop-off in the two-way game he has become known for. In fact, Couturier’s +34 rating this year was tops in the Eastern Conference and the best in the league among players not skating on the Vegas Golden Knights’ top line.
Couturier played a complete game all regular season and was a major threat for any opposing team. It will be difficult for the Flyers to replace his production in Game Four and beyond – which may only be Game Five – though at first glance, the easy solution will be to slide Giroux back to center and go from there. If there is one dull silver lining, it’s that Couturier has been largely ineffective against the Penguins both during the regular season and so far in the postseason. Remove the Flyers’ Game Two outburst and “Coots” has just two points in six games against Pittsburgh this year. Maybe his replacement in the lineup will have better luck, as the Flyers look to keep the series in reach and avoid an elimination game in Pittsburgh in Game Five.