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Will Sharks' power play drought come to an end against Blue Jackets?

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USATSI

Will Sharks' power play drought come to an end against Blue Jackets?

The Sharks started a six-game homestand in near-perfect fashion last week, save for a nagging problem. Entering Sunday, they've not scored a power play goal in 11 consecutive games. 

It's been a strange season for San Jose's power play. The Sharks rode the percentages early in the season, but started to build something sustainable in November, and parlayed those changes to the league's fourth-best power play (24 percent) until the start of the aforementioned cold streak three weeks ago.

On the power play, San Jose's generated less offense in general. On a per-hour basis, the Sharks have generated nearly 14 fewer shot attempts on the power play over the last 11 games (100.82 CF/60) compared to the first 54 (114.62), according to Natural Stat Trick. 

They're also averaging nearly 14 fewer shots on goal per hour of power play time ((51.81 SF/60) than before the cold streak began (64.29). San Jose was fourth and second, respectively, in those categories entering Feb. 9 (the day after its last power play goal), and are 17th and 19th since. 

That's concerning, but dropping from elite to slightly below-average in shot rates can't totally explain the decline. The context surrounding the decline, then, is that much more important.

For one, the Sharks are still without injured center Joe Thornton. The power play kept humming early on in his absence, but it stands to reason they'd become less productive the longer he's out of the lineup.

They've also drawn fewer penalties. The Sharks had 24 power play opportunities in the last 11 games (2.18 per game), compared to 183 in the first 54 (3.39 per game).

On a game-by-game level, the difference is particularly noticeable. In the first 54 games, the Sharks had one or fewer power play opportunities nine times. In the last 11, they've had five. 

Don't expect a change in that regard necessarily when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus has been shorthanded the second-fewest times all season (166), and its penalty kill is trending in the opposite direction of San Jose's power play. 

The Blue Jackets are still just 27th in penalty kill percentage (76.5) on the season, but 14th since Feb. 9 (82.8) as the Sharks have struggled on the power play. Their suppression of shot attempts (99.29 CA/60) has been in the middle of the pack over that span, but they've limited shots on goal (45.87 SA/60) at the league's eighth-best rate during said stretch. 

But if there is a change, don't bat an eye, either. San Jose's downard turn in power play shot production wasn't enough to cause the drought on its own, and needed the right set of circumstances (fewer power plays over an already-small sample size) to last as long as it has.

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