Despite winning three games in a row and scoring (most) of their goals at even strength, the Sharks haven’t made much of a climb out of their goal rut. San Jose sits 23rd in even strength goals scored, but that number looks even worse when applying the proper context.
The Sharks have played a lot of even strength minutes this year. In fact, they average the fourth-most even strength minutes a game, according to data from corsica.hockey. Despite playing 47.42 minutes per game 5v5, the Sharks find themselves in the bottom third of the league in scoring.
This likely owes to a poor team shooting percentage. San Jose scores on 6.45 of its even strength shots — that’s 25th in the league and well below the league average of 7.71. If the Sharks had shot at the percentage this season they’d have an extra 26.29 goals — that’s 1.75 extra even strength goal per game. You get the idea.
Conventional wisdom suggests the Sharks will rebound. In fact, it seems that rebound has already started ... sort of. Take a look at the following chart from corsica.hockey to see what I mean:
For the uninitiated, PDO is a combination of a team’s 5v5 shooting percentage and save percentage. 100 is about average, normally, and the Sharks are well below that dashed line right now. This chart is a rolling five-game average, which means each point on the chart gives the PDO of the team over the previous five games. This chart means more when the sample is bigger, but since the season is so young this is what we have.
You’ll notice the Sharks started alright in the ole PDO department before going on a slide and then bottoming out in early November. Since then, the Sharks have started to recover at a pretty solid clip. Even over the past five games they’re a bit under the 100 mark, but they’re moving in the right direction.
Luck greatly impacts shooting percentage, but obviously some players are better at shooting the puck than others. So it’s at least fair to consider this Sharks team features fewer great shooters than it has in years past. Yes, Joe Pavelski is still elite and Brent Burns has one of the best shots in the NHL but we’ve seen Patrick Marleau’s shooting taper off in recent years and Logan Couture still doesn’t have an even strength goal this year.
The former is likely showing his age while the latter is probably just riding some bad luck — unless Couture regressed a nearly impossible amount in one year, I guess. For some context, here are the rolling even strength shooting percentages of both players since October of 2014 (25 game rolling average).
If that chart doesn’t particularly convince you (since Marleau had a real nice run for a stretch at the beginning of last year and again late in the season), take a look at their shooting percentages since the 2014 season: Couture is shooting 8.83 while Marleau is shooting 7.76. And, this is stating the obvious, but I’ll bet on the guy on this side of 30 to rebound.
All this to say the Sharks have been unlucky so far this season, but it’s at least worth considering shooting is a weakness for this team. That’s why, in my opinion, the Sharks called up Kevin Labanc and it’s why I feel Nikolay Goldobin has a chance to break in to the big team. San Jose wants to score more and has played so well defensively that the team can afford the tradeoff that comes with a high-end scorer.
We’ll see how the Sharks respond if the shooting hasn’t improved by December. I don’t think it’s a huge cause for concern, but on a team this good ... there really isn’t much to be concerned about. Let’s file this under “keep an eye on.”