The Morning After: Power play breaks out, 5-on-5 scoring dries up

The Sharks were shut out at even strength in Saturday's loss to Dallas.

The Sharks’ power play broke out in Saturday’s loss to the Stars, a good sign for the team going forward. Even if we weren’t really worried about it, Joe Pavelski’s goal in the second ended an 0-for-18 skid since October 13, and It’s hard to win hockey games that way. The Sharks won just two games during that stretch, one of which required a shootout to break a 1–1 tie. With Joel Ward’s goal, the Sharks went 2-for-4 on the man advantage yesterday and raised their power play percentage from 11.1 (26th in the league) to 16.1 (a still low but much improved 20th).

As reassuring as the pair of power play goals was, San Jose’s recent inability to score at even strength is a bit concerning. Before the season, new head coach Pete DeBoer cited 5-on-5 scoring as the most important area to improve after the Sharks finished 25th in the league with only 73.7 percent of their goals scored at even strength, but they’ve now scored just 11 even strength goals in their last seven games—and five of them came in one game against Eddie Lack and a bad Carolina Hurricanes team. No matter what the power play does, San Jose needs to start scoring at 5-on-5 again to get back to its winning ways.

While even strength shots were almost identical at 21–20 yesterday, the Stars led even strength shot attempts 45–31 and unblocked shot attempts 34–26. It was much closer in the second and third periods, but at that point the slow start had already put the Sharks in a hole that they only were only able to dig themselves out of on the power play.

It was a curious decision by Pete DeBoer to start Alex Stalock against the high-powered Dallas Stars offense in the first game of the back-to-back and Martin Jones against the cellar-dwelling Colorado Avalanche in the second. The Stars were tied for third in the league with 35 goals before yesterday’s game, and the five they scored propelled them past the Bruins into second. The Avs, meanwhile, sit at 21st in the league with 24 goals. Who knows whether the three special teams goals the Sharks scored would’ve been enough to win with Jones in net, but it almost feels like the Sharks punted Saturday’s game for the favorable matchup in the second half of the back-to-back on Sunday. I’m no coach, but I would have preferred to see Jones face the Stars and take my chances with Stalock against the last place team.

It seems like players are always scoring their first NHL goals against the Sharks. In the third period yesterday, it looked like Radek Faksa would be the latest, but Stalock made a pair of nice saves to stop the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft and keep the game tied at 3–3 a little longer.