Series Preview: Sharks Special Teams
Nashville survived Anaheim's top power play, but could only muster one goal of their own against a smothering penalty kill. Against San Jose, the Predators may finally be able to break open the floodgates.
Anaheim lived up to the hype of having the best power play and penalty kill units in the NHL. While Nashville's did a fantastic job shutting the Ducks power play down for the majority of its first-round series, they could only convert once on 26 attempts through seven games.
That's what a stingy penalty kill will do against you.
Fortunately for the Predators, San Jose isn't Anaheim when it comes to snuffing out man-advantages. In fact, if they can draw penalties at the rate they did against the Ducks, it could help secure a trip to the Western Conference Finals for Nashville.
Don't necessarily count on it, though. San Jose was one of the least penalized teams during the regular season...
...and the least penalized team during the first round, taking only 14 penalties in five games.
The up-side for the Predators is that the Sharks allowed three goals on those 14 penalties. Only two other teams who escaped the first round let in more power play goals: the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.
San Jose also can seemingly forget about players and allow backdoor plays to happen -- something the Predators have should have no trouble cashing in on:
Per War-On-Ice, San Jose also allowed the most high-danger scoring chances while shorthanded (19) during the first round as well as the fifth-most shorthanded scoring chances (34).
If during this series Nashville has anywhere close to the same circulation they were producing in the offensive zone against Anaheim, the Sharks will be in for a world of hurt.
On the opposite end, San Jose's power play recorded five goals on 21 attempts -- including three in its 3-2 game four win against Los Angeles.
Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and noted Pred-killer Patrick Marleau all recorded three power play points in the first round, with Joel Ward, Joe Thornton and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic contributing as well.
With all the weapons they boast, it should come to no shock that San Jose posted the fourth-highest high-danger scoring changes on the man-advantage so far in the playoffs (17), coming in only one short of Washington and Anaheim and two short of Los Angeles, and the second-most power play scoring chances total (38).
What does all this mean?
The Sharks can score on the power play. They also, however, can allow an equal amount of chances and allow their fair share of special teams goals as well.
Nashville had plenty of attempts to pot a couple power play goals in the first round, but the Ducks level of penalty kill wizardry was second-to-none.
All the Predators need to do is force the puck into the zone. As long as Shea Weber isn't the main beneficiary of the set-up play, it wouldn't shock me if the Preds have some measure of power play success this round.
On the flip side, Nashville shouldn't have difficulty containing the Sharks on the power play. How come I'm so confident? They held Anaheim, who arguably have more talented goal-scorers than the Sharks, to four goals on 25 attempts.
If they can do that to the Ducks, there's no reason that same level of success can't continue against San Jose.
In that respect, this is one area of this series where Nashville wins the matchup.