When we took a look at what to expect from new head coach Peter DeBoer, the thesis went something like this: conservative play that sought to limit high-danger chances. Turns out that post has been pretty prophetic, albeit in only half a season of work.
The Sharks limit shots better than almost any other team in the NHL, allowing just 26.1 even-strength, scored adjusted shots per 60 minutes (sixth in the league). Their fenwick numbers are equally impressive at 39.9 which is fourth-best in the NHL. While their shot generation is relatively average, the Sharks have managed to keep other teams from ripping shots on an inexperienced netminder in Martin Jones.
The 362.9 high-danger chances (score-adjusted, even strength) allowed by the Sharks is the third-lowest in the league, which doesn't exactly speak well for San Jose's goaltending this season (26th in the NHL). While some of DeBoer's lineup decisions leave something to be desired (hi Mike Brown!) they're nothing we weren't getting from Todd McLellan game in and game out.
Some of the shot-limiting can be credited to an improved defense (thanks Paul Martin!), which while not terrific has been (mostly) good enough. The real credit here likely goes to an overall improvement in the defensive system executed by DeBoer (so yay, good work forwards!)
There's also something to be said for how many shots the Sharks are blocking (and how effectively they're doing it). Blocked shots can be a bit of a misleading stat, as too many mean you're letting the other team rip off too many shots (not having the puck is bad, as it turns out); but for San Jose this is likely a positive. The Sharks defensive system allows shots to be taken so the blocks can turn the tide of possession, which is why San Jose has looked so damn sexy in fenwick this year.
About those blocked shots though. The Sharks are tenth in the league in blocked shots (score-adjusted, 5v5, you know the drill) and have done an excellent job at limiting shots in the scoring area, as I alluded to earlier. If you're more of a visual learner, go ahead and take a look at the chart below.
San Jose's shot attempts are nothing to jump up and down about (left chart) but the right chart shows the majority of the opposition's chances are coming from outside (and to Jones' right). This is good! Assuming Jones (and hopefully Alex Stalock) recover, San Jose is set up well for limiting goals come playoff time. And also the rest of the season.
To add to some context to the shots against numbers: this season's mark is the best since 2009, and the fourth-best since 2005-06 according to waronice.com.
While there are certainly reasons to complain about DeBoer's lineups at times and his usage decisions, his positive impact on the defensive systems the Sharks play can't go unnoticed. Now if only that could work for 60 minutes, and not 59 minutes and 48 seconds. Right.