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The Morning After: Power play bails out Sharks

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The Sharks escaped Los Angeles with a win last night thanks to two timely power play goals. We take a look at how, despite a new coach and a missing piece, San Jose remains dominant with an extra man.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Outshot 29-19 at even strength, the Sharks had to rely on its power play to come back against the Kings last night. As it has all road trip, the power play delivered, scoring two power play goals to push San Jose ahead in last night's come-from-behind win in Los Angeles.

The Sharks have now scored on six of their last 14 power plays, and they now sit in the top ten in power play percentage. Surprised that they've been able to do this with a new coaching staff, an older core, and without Logan Couture for most of the season? Well, you shouldn't be, since the Sharks are simply doing what they've done exceptionally well over the last ten years.

Ever since Joe Thornton arrived in San Jose ten years ago, the Sharks' power play has been the league's best by just about every measure. Over that span, no team has generated shotsshot attempts, or unblocked shot attempts at a higher rate, and no team has scored goals at a higher rate.  While the Sharks aren't leading the league in any of those categories this season, they are still in the top six in power play goals per 60 minutes, and fifth in power play shots per 60 minutes.

Some of that decline could be explained by Logan Couture's absence. From 2007 until last season and among players with at least 200 minutes of ice time on the power play, nobody's team produced shots at a higher rate when they were on the ice than Couture.

But, how have the Sharks still managed to do so well in his absence? It helps when you have three other players in the top five.

Top 5 Players in Power Play SF60, 2007-2015 (Stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

When the only non-Shark in the top 5 is a former Shark, chances are your power play's been doing something right. Courtesy: stats.hockeyanalysis.com

Last night in Los Angeles, the Sharks showed why their power play remains a threat with two goals typical of the last ten years. The first, of course, was a Pavelskian deflection.

It's such a simple, yet effective play, as Pavelski wins the face-off, and Burns immediately puts the puck on net for Pavelski to redirect. Did I mention that no team has won a higher percentage of face-offs than San Jose over the last ten years?

The Sharks' second power play goal involved another familiar setup, with Joe Thornton working from "Gretzky's office."

Another goal, another staple for the Sharks' power play. Whether it was Jonathan Cheechoo, Devin Setoguchi, Brent Burns, or now Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton has always had an eye for right-handed forwards crashing the net.

Despite a new coaching staff, aging stars, and the absence of one of the league's best players on the power play, the Sharks' power play remains dominant. We definitely shouldn't expect this to be enough for the Sharks to return to the playoffs, as it wasn't enough last year. But as we saw last night, San Jose's power play is still a game-changer, and can make up for a bad night at even strength.