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Preview/Lines #61: Penalty Kill Has Been Sharks’ “Backbone”

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Credit: Sammi Silber

It’s probably bad luck to talk about how good the San Jose Sharks’ penalty kill has been with Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon coming into town.

But the Sharks have given up just two power play goals since the All-Star break – even including yesterday’s Anze Kopitar strike. They’ve killed 43-of-45 penalties since the break, vaulting themselves to second in the NHL with an 86.9 Penalty Kill % rate, behind only the Carolina Hurricanes.

“It has been our backbone all year,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner acknowledged.

One of the Sharks’ go-to penalty-killers is Andrew Cogliano. He actually leads all San Jose Sharks forwards in short-handed time.

He’s also been a part of some very good PKs – his 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks led the league – so he knows a great kill and a great coach.

“[Assistant coach John Madden] has done a great job in terms of his details, in terms of the penalty kill. It’s the best I’ve seen [from] a coach, coaching and making a game plan,” Cogliano said of the 2001 Selke Trophy winner. “I think only a former player really could do that.”

In fact, the PK has been so good, Boughner has changed up how the Sharks defend at 5-on-5 to emulate it.

“You could see we’re taking away the middle of the ice, forcing teams wide and building that wall. One of the reasons we did it was because we’re such a good penalty kill team in the 1-3 when we have four guys on the ice,” Boughner said last Saturday. “So parlay that into a five-man system and it’s the same mentality.”

That’s not a normal thing to do, especially in the middle of an NHL season, I assure you. So what makes the PK tick?

“We’re a heavy, heavy force team. We don’t give teams many grade-A looks on our on our PK. We’re forcing so hard and so quickly that even on our [neutral zone] stands, we’ve been a good team on our stands, making teams not been able to come over our line with control,” Boughner explained. “[Then in zone,] we trigger. When one guy triggers, the other three trigger. So we’re working in unison.”

San Jose Sharks (26-26-8)

Boughner will announce San Jose’s line-up two hours before the game. Zach Sawchenko is expected to start.

This is how the Sharks rolled last night in a 3-0 loss to the Kings. Based on Bob’s in-game tinkering at Los Angeles, I’d expect some changes from this — and there are, Jonah Gadjovich and Jeffrey Viel are coming in for Noah Gregor and John Leonard.

Colorado Avalanche (43-15-5)

Nico Sturm speaks, Bednar on Landeskog status, Francouz in net

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks is at 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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