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Game Preview/Lines #39: Sharks’ Power Play Still Struggling



Credit: Sheng Peng

San Jose Sharks (17-17-4)

Los Angeles Kings (15-17-6)

Here’s how the Kings lined up in their last game, a 4-3 victory over the Coyotes:

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For the second straight year, the San Jose Sharks power play is experiencing outages at all the wrong times.

Last season, they finished 23rd in the NHL with a 17.5 success rate. This year? They’re – wait for it – 23rd in the league at 18.1 percent.

Kevin Labanc admitted: “Everybody’s a little bit frustrated that the power play isn’t producing as well as it should be.”

“We’ve been trying to figure it out for quite some time now,” Erik Karlsson acknowledged.

The underlying stats suggest one potential issue: For a team that has a heavy 5-on-5 emphasis on Inner Slot Shots – the San Jose Sharks are fifth in the league at Even Strength Per 60 here, according to SPORTLOGiQ – it’s interesting to note that they’re just 19th in this category on the power play. This suggests that the Sharks aren’t earning a steady diet of high-danger looks on the PP.

Natural Stat Trick corroborates this: San Jose is 16th in High-Danger Corsi For at 5-on-4. For what it’s worth, six of the top eight HDCF teams are also in the top-10 in Goals For Per 60. Naturally, the power play groups seeing the most high-danger looks are scoring the most goals.

Of course, it’s not fair to assume that the Sharks are trying to accomplish the exact same thing on the man advantage as they are at 5-on-5. But they are trying to push a 5-on-5 mentality onto the PP, at least in terms of their units.

In the last game, they lined up Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Kevin Labanc on one unit, and Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, and Rudolfs Balcers on another. In other words, the same lines at 5-on-5 as on the power play. And it sounds like they’re committing to that.

“That’s what we’re gonna stay with for a while, we can’t keep changing,” Bob Boughner offered today. “We got to get guys comfortable in their spots and get that chemistry built.”

Boughner didn’t touch on high-danger chances, but he pointed out, “One thing that can improve on our power play is quicker puck movement. You get a team running, you get them caught on one side, if you can get it over to the other side, onto the big [space of] ice, that’s your attack area.

“But that can only happen if you’re not overhandling the puck, you’re letting the puck do the work.”

Basically, find the open man in space quickly – hope the open man, who’s under less pressure, executes the right play from there.

Sounds simple, but the San Jose Sharks have been struggling with that for two years and running.

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