Sharks Looking To Shore Up Penalty Kill Vs. Rangers
SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks earned failing grades in almost every facet of their game on Thursday.
Team defense, goaltending and special teams all played a role in the squad’s 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues.
“It wasn’t just one area of our game,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “It wasn’t goaltending or backend or forwards, power play or penalty kill. It was the complete game again and that’s concerning. It’s very concerning.”
McLellan also tipped his cap to the Blues for playing another well-rounded hockey game against his club.
“That’s a helluva team right now. That team is clicking on all cylinders,” he said, adding: “I still don’t think there’s that much of a separation between the teams, so the fact that we played the way that we did is disappointing.”
After picking up points in 11 of 12 games prior to the Christmas break, the Sharks are just 3-4 over the last two weeks and looking for answers.
In addition to the power play’s recent struggles, the Sharks are also seeing a regression on the penalty kill. After killing 23 of 25 penalties before the holiday break, the unit is executing at just a 60 percent clip (8-of-20) since it returned to action against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 27.
The Sharks surrendered two goals while shorthanded against the Kings that night, two against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday and, twice, they’ve allowed the Blues top-ranked power play (26.4 percent) to go 2-for-4 against them.
McLellan said one problem is that the unit is trying to kill penalties as individuals.
“Penalty kill is as much about being a four-man unit and relying completely on each other,” he said. “When one does something, somebody else has to react.”
The Sharks coach went on to say: “I don’t think we’re four, we’re one and three watch.”
Andrew Desjardins said the penalty kill needs to get back to fundamentals.
“I think we let a few goals in that maybe are just foundation stuff that we can clean up,” he said. “You can’t stop when guys make ridiculous plays — that’s one thing. But then when we’re missing assignments that are basic or we’re not getting in shot lanes, and stuff like that, I think those are easily correctable.”
In addition to getting into shot lanes, Desjardins said the penalty kill needs to pressure opponents and get 200-foot clears while acting and reacting as a single unit.
“A PK is a four-man unit,” he said. “If one man goes, we’ve all got to be on our toes to go.”
Joe Pavelski said the penalty kill needs to limit the quality of chances that opposing power plays receive, so it isn’t relying on the goalie for a bail out.
“He’s your last line of defense, but we don’t want to be giving them the chances they’ve had on it lately, and that’s the bottom line,” Pavelski said.
The team can also pick up an assist for the penalty kill during even-strength situations by staying out of the box. After going 60-plus minutes without committing a penalty against the Blues on Dec. 20, the Sharks gave the league’s best power play eight chances with the man advantage in two games, including six minutes in the first period on Thursday.
“That all becomes taxing,” McLellan said.
The assignment won’t get any easier when the red-hot New York Rangers, who’ve won 12 of 13 games, roll into SAP Center on Saturday. The Rangers are currently ranked eighth (21.2) with the man advantage, featuring former-Shark Dan Boyle, who will be suiting up for his first game against his former squad.
Over the last seven contests, the Rangers power play is 10-of-23 with the man advantage.
“They’re getting it going a little bit, so that just shows we need to stay out of the box,” Pavelski said.