The Sharks woke up Sunday with an ice-cold power play. San Jose, the league’s fourth-best team in power play percentage, failed to score on the man advantage in each of its last four games, the second-longest streak of the season (six games; Nov. 4-18).
That wasn’t too much of an issue, as the team still won three of those last four games. Given how good they’ve been on the man advantage this season, though, there should be cause for concern.
Part of the problem is that the Sharks have drawn fewer penalties. Opponents have only been penalized nine times in the last four games against San Jose, or 2.25 times per game, down from 3.31 per game on the season.
The Sharks largely shot from the same places over the last four games as they have on the season, but they also shot a lot less. They generated shot attempts, shots on goal, and scoring chances at a lower rate in the previous four games than on the season, according to Natural Stat Trick.
You’d think Tomas Hertl’s absence would have something to do with it, but San Jose’s top unit actually created shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger changes at a higher rate with Hertl out of the lineup on Thursday than in the three games prior. The power play is also missing the injured Joe Thornton, but the Sharks are somehow generating shots and attempts at a slightly higher rate without him.
Whatever the cause, the timing is less than ideal. San Jose remains one of the worst five-on-five scoring teams in the league, despite a relative outburst of 11 such goals in the last four games.
Plus, they begin a stretch on Sunday against some of the league’s best penalty-killing teams. All of their next five opponents are against teams in the top 16 in penalty kill percentage.
The Dallas Stars, the Sharks’ opponent on Sunday, just might be the best of the bunch. They’re 11th in the league in suppressing shot attempts on the penalty kill, fourth in limiting shots, and sixth in preventing scoring chances, per Natural Stat Trick.
San Jose’s struggled against the Central Division all season, and an impotent power play is not going to do much to change that, unless the recent five-on-five scoring improvement becomes permanent. Then, it won’t have to worry all that much.
But considering how much better the Sharks have been on the man advantage than at even strength all season, that’s not something they can necessarily count on.