Sharks vs. Predators, Game 3: The penalty box blues
San Jose takes too many penalties in loss to Predators.
Nashville ended the Sharks four-game winning streak and six-game road win streak on Tuesday night. That's a game Sharks fans can comfortably say wasn't much fun at all. San Jose took trip after trip to the penalty box and eventually got burned for it. While disappointing, the Sharks' failings in game three fit into the 'correctable' category.
At 5v5, the Sharks played a strong game, truth be told. They out shot Nashville 19-13 at 5v5 and gave up only one goal in that game state. Martin Jones didn't play his best game in teal, but he saved 12 of 13 5v5 shots. As always, the best defense for a potent power play is staying out of the box. It's an area we knew the Predators might struggle in during this series, but San Jose has had its own penalty issues at times during the season.
The Sharks committed 301 penalties during the regular season (according to war-on-ice.com) which is the sixth-fewest in the NHL. San Jose's penalty differential (+46) was second only to Minnesota and Nashville sat at 10th with a +13 mark. Still, we saw games this season where the Sharks took a ton of penalties and lost games they played well in at even strength.
San Jose took six penalties against Nashville on Tuesday, which is tied for sixth-most in a game by the Sharks this season. In games where the Sharks took at least five penalties they went 11-10-1, a mark that's quite frankly relatively respectable. When considering how mediocre the penalty kill has been all season (80.5 percent kill rate) you'd think too many trips to the box would be more costly.
That likely says more about the Sharks great offense than anything else, but it's worth nothing this team has managed to overcome its own missteps in the past. Regardless, Nashville has a good power play despite its ineffectiveness during the postseason, and the Sharks' penalty kill just isn't good enough to survive this many trips to the penalty box.
Pekka Rinne played well again for Nashville and is having himself a pretty nice series thus far. He didn't play particularly well against Anaheim, but the Sharks have struggled to find the back of the net when at 5v5 strength through three games of this series. San Jose's shooting percentage sits at 4.8 at 5v5 play in the Nashville series, significantly lower than the 7.7 percent mark the Sharks boasted during the regular season.
Some of that is simply bad luck, some is Rinne playing well and a portion is just the Sharks not capitalizing on their scoring chances. Despite Tuesday's loss, the Sharks showed they're the better team when they stay out of the penalty box. The key to game four is to make 5v5 play the deciding factor — if the Sharks can do that, they'll be just fine.