San Jose Sharks Penalty Kill Playing Their Best Hockey Yet

The San Jose Sharks may be 1-4 in their last five games. They may be trailing the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals and they may be in the midst of a run where they have blown third period leads in three of their last four games. However, those struggles aren't related to the penalty kill-- and when one remembers the questions surrounding the shorthanded unit heading into the postseason, that is nothing but a positive.

Especially against a Vancouver Canucks power play that converted at a League best 24.3% during the regular season.

The Sharks penalty kill, which finished the season 24th in the NHL at a lowly 79.6% rate, has had its fair share of issues this year. Players such as Dany Heatley, Jason Demers, Ian White, Joe Thornton, and Logan Couture-- who were better known for their offensive capabilities than their defensive panache coming into this year-- have all averaged over a minute on the PK this postseason.

It's been a kill by committee mentality once you get past the likes of Vlasic, Pavelski, Boyle, Marleau, and Murray, a mentality that emphasizes every player buying in and paying the price. Consider the fact that the Sharks were the best team at blocking shots a week and a half ago (they are currently second behind Tampa Bay) as well as the fact that their best shot blocking forwards have been Couture, Pavelski, Heatley, and Thornton. These glimpses into the inner-workings of the team give you an idea of how much pride the Sharks take in their defensive game.

In game one against Vancouver the penalty kill was nothing short of spectacular despite giving up the game winning goal in the third period. San Jose had to kill four penalties throughout the game-- on two of them, the Canucks failed to register a single shot. Game seven against Detroit was much of the same as San Jose held the Red Wings (whose fifth ranked power play converted at a 22.3% rate during the regular season) to two shots on net during four opportunities that spanned 7:14 of ice time.

Since the Sharks game three win against the Red Wings, a period of time that has seen them post the aforementioned 1-4 record, the penalty kill has been lights out:


San Jose Sharks Penalty Kill In Last Five Games

Game
Kills
Opp.
PK %
SA
SA/PP
FO%
G4 DET
3 4
75%
5
1.25
4/10
G5 DET
2 2
100%
0
0.00
3/3
G6 DET
6 6
100%
9
1.50
5/7
G7 DET
4 4
100%
2
0.50
5/9
G1 VAN
3 4 75% 5 1.25
3/9
TOTAL
18 20 90% 21 1.05
52.6%

Those percentages are excellent to see from a much maligned unit. However, they are offset due to the struggles of the power play in these same situations. The Sharks are 2 for 14 in their last five games, converting a mere 15.2% of their man advantage chances, something that has historically been an issue for the Sharks in the postseason.

During the playoffs however, it is also important to look at the in-game results of special team battles-- due to the small sample size of games we are dealing with, a team's power play can look much better than it actually has been if the unit blows up for three goals in a single game.

This postseason the Sharks have gone 4-4-6 in terms of special teams battles in a single game. In other words, they've outscored their opponent on special teams four times, been outscored on special teams four times, and had the same amount of goals as their opponents from special teams on six occasions.

In games they've lost the battle the Sharks are 2-2. In games they've tied the battle they are 2-4.

In games they've won the special teams battle they are 4-0.

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