Sharks Gameday: A look at San Jose's recently struggling penalty kill



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35-30-4, 74 points 39-22-7, 85 points
8th in Eastern Conference
3rd in Western Conference

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Much has been made about San Jose's power play troubles since the injury to Dan Boyle, and rightfully so; the Sharks are just three for their last twenty one on the power play.

Still, though, the Sharks' power play percentage on the season remains high; the 22.1% they have maintained to this point in the year is good for third in the league and is expected to be even better when Boyle and Ian White are finally able to work together for an extended period.

Where San Jose is really struggling, though, is on the other side of the special teams coin. The penalty kill has been mediocre all season, but has approached new lows with the injuries to Scott Nichol and Boyle. Here's how the penalty kill has fared over the course of the season.


The numbers in the circles represent the injuries to Nichol (21) and Boyle (22)

The Sharks penalty kill currently sits at a measly 80.5%, representing 21st overall in the league. That wont quite cut it, especially for a team with Cup aspirations. About ten games ago, the penalty kill was clicking at 82.7%, which would put the Sharks at 13th in the league today. By no means is that an impressive number, but it's much more respectable.

San Jose has played some good teams lately, which will of course affect their ability to kill penalties. However, the Sharks have played good teams all year long, and aside from the volatile first month of the season, they've kept a penalty kill success ratio of over 81%. Well, until lately.

The only explanation for this drop off is the loss of Nichol (1:44 PKTOI/GM) and Boyle, who leads the team in not only minutes played per game, but also minutes played short handed at 2:18 per night. The loss of these two pieces has sent the Sharks penalty kill into a tailspin.

Granted, San Jose is still winning games, (and winning games against good teams) without Boyle or Nichol. But the continued failures of the penalty kill are reaching historic levels; an 80.5% success rate would equal the worst for the Sharks since the lockout.

What I'm trying to say here is simple: Boyle gets attention because of his offensive flair. However, that's not his only skill; he's important to the team in countless more ways than his contribution in the offensive end. Without him in the lineup, the penalty kill is falling apart at the seams.

Boyle is expected to be returning soon, possibly even tonight. That should definitely help the team in all aspects, and hopefully solidify the penalty kill until Nichol returns to assist even further. If the Sharks want to have success, the commitment to team defense will have to carry over to short handed situations as well.

It starts tonight against the Rangers.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Three short handed goals scored by Dan Boyle.