Sharktistical Analysis: Even Strength City

All year we have touched base upon the importance of even strength play, labeling it a good indicator on how a team will fare in the postseason. For the uninitiated, a brief refresher course will serve you well.

Two areas that we should tend to look at heading into the playoffs are goaltending and even strength play. Goaltending is an obvious choice, but even strength play is nearly as important. With the referees whistles in their pockets (or stashed somewhere else if you want to be a smartass), cashing in on the scoreboard when it's all even is the most accessible way to advance to the next round.

- Bubble Boys of The West, 2/27

The next one is in mid-December, when the Sharks had hit a skid:

Once you reach the playoffs it becomes a lot harder to rely on the power play to get wins as the games are generally called a lot tighter; what was a penalty in December may get overlooked in May. This isn't to say that these units are unimportant- they may be even more of an asset considering the rarity of 5 v 4 situations, but the fact that they are less prevalent makes them less of a "crutch" to fall back on. Secondly, the majority of time spent on the ice is played at even strength. The Sharks need to generate scoring opportunities 5 on 5, which is something they've had difficulty doing. Hence the difficulty winning games.

- Even Strength Play, 12/22

Snapshots to say the least, but as a Shark fan, it's usually a positive to have a short memory (/obligatory second round joke). Jump like Van Halen in 1984* for a look at some even strength stats.

*It's no Panama, but I'll be damned if I miss an opportunity to throw a shout out to one of the greatest bands to ever grace this planet.

The Sharks currently rank as a mediocre team in terms of even strength goals for- 18th to be exact, with 135 to their name. While that is frightening in some aspects (a point we will touch on later this week), it doesn't tell the whole story. In order to fully understand how San Jose stacks up in the even strength department, a look at goal differential is necessary.

2008-2009 Regular Season

Rank Team EV Goal Dif.
1 Boston +50
2 New Jersey +40
3 Detroit +32
4 Chicago +25
5 Vancouver +23
6 Columbus +21
7 Pittsburgh +19
8 San Jose +19
9 Washington +18
10 Calgary +11
11 Carolina +8
12 Florida +8
13 Anaheim +5
14 Edmonton +4
15 Philadelphia +1
16 Montreal -3
17 Dallas -7
18 Nashville -7
19 Buffalo -9
20 Ottawa -11
21 New York Ran. -16
22 St. Louis -17
23 Atlanta -18
24 Minnesota -19
25 Tampa Bay -21
26 Toronto -23
27 Phoenix -27
28 Colorado -29
29 Los Angeles -30
30 New York Isl. -47

Please note that the top 8 teams in the Western Conference in even strength differential are all in the playoffs, while 7 of 8 from the East are in. Those are the teams in bold.

Looks like we're on to something here.

Glancing at the list, the top ten teams are all viable contenders to win the Cup, a point that could have been made before we saw their even strength numbers. Boston and New Jersey have gotten good goaltending, Detroit is an offensive juggernaut, San Jose has been strong all year etc. But does this translate come playoff time?

2006-2007 Regular Season

Rank Team EV Goal Dif. Playoffs
1 Buffalo +61 Lost in ECF
2 Ottawa +53 Lost in SCF
3 Detroit +51 Lost in WCF
6 Anaheim +23 SCF Champion

2007-2008 Regular Season

Rank Team EV Goal Dif. Playoffs
1 Detroit +44 SCF Champion
4 Pittsburgh +19 Lost in SCF
6 Dallas +15 Lost in WCF
22 Philadelphia -11 Lost in ECF

Apart from Philadelphia, it seems that top notch even strength play during the regular season has been a good precursor to postseason success.

We'll take a look at this more in depth on Friday, but I thought it would be a good idea to get the juices flowing for the upcoming tilt against Chicago considering they have better numbers. Oh, and that whole possible playoff opponent thing had a bit to do with it as well.

Go Sharks.

Does the Sharks even strength play worry you about the postseason?

I'm a Sharks fan. Pessimism is my right hand man.61