The San Jose Sharks' penalty kill appeared to have gone on vacation early, surrendering seven goals in 15 opportunities before the All-Star break.
“That’s one of the areas we talked about coming out of the break that we wanted to get back to where it belongs,” acknowledged coach Pete DeBoer.
The Sharks' penalty kill came back strong from their 10-day layoff, snuffing out all four Arizona Coyotes’ power plays — including a 5-on-3 — in a 3-2 victory.
“It’s the details,” said Justin Braun. “Good stands at the line; we haven’t been stopping entries as well as we have in the past. Cutting the ice [in half].”
These are but a couple components of a successful penalty kill, but it’s a solid place to start.
As Derek Stepan (21) advanced up the right lane, Melker Karlsson (68) cagily took away the middle of the ice. Karlsson accomplished this without losing track of Richard Panik (14).
Because Karlsson has cut off half the ice — taking away the middle and forcing the opposition to the outside — Stepan must stay in his lane.
“We have to be in the right position. They’re coming in controlled, so you have to come and steer them,” noted Karlsson. “We have to do that or they have an easy entry. We have to steer them where we want them.”
Barclay Goodrow (23) read what is now a one-on-one and stepped up, forcing a dump-in.
Karlsson added, “If we get the timing right, everything else falls into place. It’s mostly about timing. When you gotta stress, when you gotta lay off.”
Cutting the ice in half and standing up at the blueline often go hand in hand.
Brent Burns (88) retrieved, brilliantly beating both Jordan Oesterle (82) and Christian Fischer (36) to the puck. Burns’s ability to draw two Coyotes to him gave Karlsson the easy clear.
Dealing with Stepan is one thing. Dealing with the slippery Clayton Keller (9) is another animal.
As Keller ambled along the left wall, Goodrow extended his stick across the middle to discourage a pass across the neutral zone.
Keller held, cutting toward the middle. Goodrow did a 360, extending his stick to wall off the center lane. Keller, suddenly cut back toward the left, but Goodrow’s stick was able to swing back to meet Keller’s change of direction, still keeping him away from the middle.
Goodrow had managed to steer Keller into Burns’s vicinity. Burns stood up, forcing a Keller turnover at the blueline.
Standing up at the blueline is not just the defenseman’s responsibility — it takes four-men connected.
Here’s another example of forwards coordinating with the defense on the kill: Evander Kane (9) cannonballed toward Oesterle, walling off the middle. Braun (61) stood strong at the blueline. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Oesterle just gave it up.
These weren’t the only areas where San Jose’s penalty kill flexed: They jumped passing lanes, kept Arizona’s attack to the perimeter, enjoyed a number of short-handed chances and got big saves from Martin Jones.
“Details were good, energy was good,” agreed DeBoer.
In all, the Sharks' penalty kill held Arizona’s power play to a carry-in percentage of just 47 percent at 4-on-5.
“That was a huge part of the win tonight,” Braun observed. “Guys were working really hard. Going to where they need to be. It showed out there.”