SAN JOSE -- From Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, the Sharks' power play was beyond putrid, scoring only twice on 49 attempts. But since the turn of the calendar, San Jose has been scorching with the man-advantage.
In the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center on Thursday night, San Jose went 1-for-3 on the power play, with the lone marker proving to be the game-winning goal -- an absolute howitzer from Joe Thornton. By scoring that power-play goal, Thornton became the oldest player in franchise history to score a game-winning goal at 40 years, 191 days. But more importantly, it continued a trend in which the special-teams unit seems to have gotten back on track.
JUMBOOOO 🦈 pic.twitter.com/fzoUY4tm10— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 10, 2020
Counting Thornton's goal, the Sharks are now 5-for-11 with the man-advantage in 2020, scoring at least one power-play goal in four of their five games. So, what's different?
According to defenseman Brent Burns, well, not much at all.
"Getting bounces," Burns explained. "You're seeing things go in that previously never did. Instead of hitting a stick and going out, it's going in. Just quick movement and getting shots. I know it looks easy from where you guys sit, but the difference between [a shot] getting through and not is pretty minimal.
"It's nice to see that going in and guys getting confidence from that. But I wouldn't say there's much difference."
While Burns' explanation seems perfectly plausible, the good bounces aren't necessarily happening now by accident. Just before the power play caught fire, some of its critical members got together to try to figure things out.
"We had a dinner probably five, six games ago as a group of five, and chatted a little bit," Sharks winger Evander Kane said after the win. "[The power play] seemed to kind of take off from there. We've got some good puck movement going on. We don't care who scores and it's working right now."
When pressed for more details about that meeting of the minds, Kane was mum on the specific participants. But whatever was said certainly appears to have worked.
"We knew that we hit rock bottom," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said of the power play. "You could see that we changed personnel, changed units around and it started clicking. And I think the biggest difference is we're not holding on to pucks on the power play. We're making other teams adjust because we're having good puck movement and I believe that our shooting mentality is a lot better."
As impressive as Thornton's shot was -- and boy did that thing move -- Boughner pointed to a less obvious reason for the puck finding the back of the net.
"And on that goal, great shot by [Thornton]," Boughner said, "but I think he could see where [Barclay Goodrow] was, and it was in the goalie's eyes. And the last few power-play goals, they're all the same. Timo [Meier] the other night in St. Louis. [Goodrow] is doing a real good job of sitting on the lap of that goalie. So it's nice to have options. That unit has been excellent for us."
The two points resulting from the win will aid the Sharks as they attempt to climb their way back into the playoff picture. They still have a long way to go, but Thursday's performance can serve as a building block as they attempt to piece some victories together. With Logan Couture expected to miss several weeks with a fractured ankle, San Jose can use every offensive boost it can get. The power play has found a groove, and the longer it can keep it up, the longer the Sharks can keep their postseason hopes alive.