0 for 21 is a horrible stat no matter what sport you’re looking at. If you were a batter in baseball, you’d be benched to try and bust out of a slump. If you were a point guard and that was your 3-point percentage, your coach wouldn’t let you shoot anymore. Heck, even the worst quarterbacks can get a 2-yard pass to their running back before they go 0-21. So, how come nothing has been done about the Sharks power play at home?
The Sharks rank dead last in the NHL in power play percentage. 11.4% of the time the Sharks are on the man advantage, they manage to convert. At home, this season, Team Teal are shooting blanks. And it’s not as if they’ve been getting robbed on the doorstep, either. According to Hextally charts from War-on-Ice, the Sharks shoot from the high-danger area (the slot and crease) 15% less than the league average.
That chart does reveal another piece of information. The Sharks like to shoot from the point. How much so? Brent Burns, the shots leader on this team, is also the leader on the power play. His 17 shots on target are 25% of the attempts that the Sharks get on net. Burns’ favorite shot, by far is his slapshot, which he takes from the point, ad nauseum.
While Burns does have a devastating slapshot, it still comes from distance. It is easier to defend when the shots come from that far out. To further illustrate that fact, Burns’ average shot distance (according to behindthenet.ca) is 52 feet from goal, or just inside the blue line.
Whether it is tipping more of Burns’ shots from the blue line or getting the shots from closer, the Sharks need to change their shot strategy on the man advantage.
Everyone looked tame on the power play behind Joe Pavelski last season. However, the now-injured Logan Couture, was up near the top of the power play goal list and was tied for second in terms of power play points with 24. As a key member of the loaded top unit, their struggles without him are not surprising. Without him, the unit is left with Pavelski and the aging Marleau as the only real options down low to score.
What is perplexing, is his replacement. Joel Ward has been the points leader for the Sharks. His promotion to the top unit has failed to energize them, however. Despite his knack for the net in other situations, Ward has yet to make a big impact.
Furthermore, he may be hindering the guy the top unit depends on. Pavelski makes a living by scrapping in front of the net. Ward likes to scrap in front of the net too. So, his presence on the power play may have upset the balance of the top unit. Pavelski can survive anywhere, but the Sharks may be lacking his dynamic play in front of the net to allow Ward to position there.
Typically, Marleau and Couture would play low along the boards and have Thornton and Burns moving the puck at the blue line. But, without Couture, the set group that has built so much chemistry has been disrupted.
The Non-Existent Second Unit
Nobody expects their second unit to do big things. But they should expect it to do something. Tomas Hertl is the only player to score from it. And it gets worse when you use the eye test. Offensive zone time is extremely limited, passes are rash and often don’t connect, and penalty kill units have little difficulty clearing the pucks.
What it needs is a real defenseman to lead it. The players at the second unit’s blue line are not puck movers. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are solid shutdown guys, but they are offensively challenged. Matt Tennyson has gotten extended time, and while he is a better puck mover, he is very young and still needs to refine his offensive game.