Sharks

Sharks change strategy on the PK

577602.jpg

Sharks change strategy on the PK

SAN JOSE What do you do when your penalty kill sits at 29th in the NHL, after finishing last season 24th in the league?

Simple. You change it up.

Thats what coach Todd McLellan did during a very technically oriented portion of Wednesdays practice at Sharks Ice. Specifically, the Sharks would like to be more aggressive in the neutral zone, making it tougher for opposing teams to bring the puck up the ice.

Its all new to everybody, said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. We went through it on the ice, and I think everybody got a good sense of what the coaches wanted to change.

The Sharks have allowed at least one power play goal in six of their last seven games, dropping their penalty kill percentage to just 72.3 percent. The one game in which they didnt allow a goal while down a man was against Pittsburgh, was when the Penguins didnt have a single power play opportunity.

Against the Kings on Monday, the Sharks gave up a goal on a two-man disadvantage in the second period, and later allowed Anze Kopitar to get his own rebound on a Los Angeles power play in the third period after the Kings easily moved the puck through the neutral zone.

Kopitar's goal, in particular, is one the Sharks dont want to see again.

Last game there was one on the rush that we didnt really want to give up, said Boyle.

Our up-ice pressure in what weve done coming through the neutral zone, weve made a number of mistakes and its costing us, said McLellan. Weve got to look at ways at filling those holes and starting to support each other for mistakes.

That, in particular, was something McLellan was trying to explain on Wednesday. He slowly walked through every situation on the ice and positioned each player based on where the puck was, or where it was going.

Its all different than what we have been doing on the forecheck. Positioning, trust factor, just basically trusting that in the new system that everybody will be doing their jobs, said Vlasic.

Fortunately for the Sharks, a good power play and excellent five-on-five numbers have been able to mask the penalty killing problem. San Jose is seventh in the NHL on the power play (21.3 percent) and second in the league in five-on-five goal differential (1.39).

Our power play has been fine this year and were scoring five-on-five so thats a real healthy sign, said McLellan.

Boyle agrees with his coach, saying: The power play has been pretty good and five-on-five has been pretty good. The PK has kind of been the one area that needs major improvement. We definitely dont think its a personnel issue. We have the right guys. We just have to clean it up.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.