The Sharks' 2-1 win over the Kings on Sunday night was, well, very Kings-like.
At even strength, San Jose largely controlled play, limiting Los Angeles and peppering pucks at Jonathan Quick. Much like those Cup-winning Kings teams, the Sharks only had two goals to show for their efforts.
In fact, they’ve been pretty Kings-like all season.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled here and elsewhere about San Jose’s inability to score. They had scored the fifth-fewest goals in the league (43) entering Monday, and the second-fewest during five-on-five play (24).
The Stanley Cup champion Kings teams weren’t offensive world-beaters either, ranking 29th and 25th, respectively, in 2011-12 and 2013-14. Those squads controlled play, killed penalties, and boasted strong defensive depth, led by a goaltender capable of catching fire and carrying his team in the postseason.
It should, because San Jose is in the top six in both major measures of puck possession early in the season, according to Puck on Net. The penalty kill has killed off 88.5% of its opportunities, the second-best mark in the league.
Brent Burns is off to a slow start, but the emergence of Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan has solidified what was already one of the league’s best bluelines. Martin Jones’ even strength save percentage remains in the middle of the pack, but that may not matter much if the Sharks continue to limit chances.
Of course, similar strengths mean there are similar concerns, too. So far, the Sharks have scored on just 8.2 percent of their shots, the 23rd-worst mark in the league.
The Kings were 30th and 29th in shooting percentage in the regular season of their Cup campaigns, and although there’s hope San Jose will convert more, Los Angeles shows it’s far from a guarantee.
If that continues, the margin for error becomes razor thin, just as it was for the Kings. Despite winning two Stanley Cups, Los Angeles did not win the Pacific Division during that stretch. They finished 16 points out in 2014, and needed a late-season swing (as well as a new head coach) just to make the postseason in 2012.
As long as the Sharks struggle to score, even a slight defensive downturn would provide a hurdle on their path to the postseason. The season’s first two games, in which San Jose allowed nine goals and scored only three, are proof of that.
It's still very early in the season, and San Jose has a long way to go until they're mentioned in the same breath as Los Angeles' title-winning teams. They still trail the Southern California rivals by four points in the division, let alone in Stanley Cup count.
So far, though, the they're closely following the Kings’ blueprint. It’s led to success through 16 games, but the true test is if it leads to 16 wins in April, May, and June.