(photo: Scot Tucker/SFBay)
Starting off the season strong with three consecutive wins is something the San Jose Sharks are accustomed to. But with those successes, it’s also important to note the things they need to work on – one glaring thing in particular, the power play.
Over the first three games, the Sharks have had the man advantage 15 times for about 28 minutes, but resulting in only 2 goals. Shockingly, that’s almost one-half game with power play time. That’s only 13%, putting them in 19th place in the league, as of October 16. And the downward trend over the years is staggering (data via NHL.com).
This year’s 19th ranking thus far is not as bad as the Montreal Canadiens, with 17 power play opportunities and only 2 goals, or reigning champs Los Angeles Kings, with 18 opportunities and only 1 goal (stats as of October 17); however, with three straight wins from the Sharks, imagine what a few more extra goals from the man advantage could bring: confidence, unstoppable power, a Stanley Cup? At the end of a game though, a win is a win. A team may still get the win whether or not they score on power plays, but sometimes those man-advantage opportunities are the difference-makers.
In only three games, the number one power play team, the Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0), have had 13 power plays resulting in 6 goals, or 46.2%. They also have two consecutive wins like the Sharks, less one game, but a better percentage. That’s a strong team, and when the crucial time comes when power play goals matter, they will win. When the Sharks play the Penguins in March, the power play could be the difference between a win and a loss. A lot will change between now and then (hopefully fruitful power plays!) and it will be interesting to see if the Sharks can match up nicely to the Pens.
Last night, the Sharks played the number two power play team, the New York Islanders. Also undefeated to start the season, the Islanders (3-0-0) have had 12 power plays resulting in 5 goals, or 42.9%, before last night’s matchup with the Sharks.
(photo: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport)
The Islanders notched another power play goal on two power play chances against the Sharks, and kept their percentage and 2nd place ranking intact. The Sharks only had one power play against the Isles, resulting in a goal by none other than Patrick Marleau, and their percentage shot up 5 points to 18%, barely giving their power play life a pulse. Now, as of October 17, the Sharks are 14th, up from 19th. The Islanders won the game in a shootout goal by John Tavares, New York’s leader in points this season.
So, the question is, was the power play the difference in last night’s game? Matched up against a team that is 24% better, one would think so. But there weren’t many penalties – only three the entire game, the least amount in a Sharks game thus far this season. And, it’s important to note that this game went into OT and then a SO, with the shoot out being the deciding factor between gaining one point or two in the standings.
I don’t think the power play had much influence on the outcome of this particular game; however, had there been more penalties, it could have had a much greater weight. Nonetheless, power plays (and killing penalties, for that matter) are important parts of the game. A team wants to stay out of the box and capitalize on any chances when the other team is in the box. It’ll be interesting to see how the power play rankings change game by game this season. One thing is for certain: the Sharks have to get better.