The 2013-14 San Jose Sharks finished with some gaudy numbers, but as we all know, they faded in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in epic-fail fashion—blowing a 3-0 series lead to the eventual NHL champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
News this week? The Sharks and the Kings will square off in an outdoor game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on February 21.
If San Jose wants to win that game—and get to the Cup Finals themselves, for once—they'll need to improve in one major area next spring: power-play success.
It's hard to fathom the Sharks could be so mediocre on the power play, considering their offensive weapons: center Joe Pavelski finished second in the league with 16 power-play goals, and center Patrick Marleau was eighth with 11 man-up scores. Center Joe Thornton was 16th in NHL with 17 assists on the power play. In addition, Pavelski was 23rd with 15 assists.
So how in the heck did the Sharks finish 20th in a 30-team league for power-play success rate? Their 17.2% rate was mediocre, all things considered.
True, San Jose earned the second-most opportunities in the league (291), but they scored only 50 times with those chances.
Toss in the postseason problems—the Sharks converted only 12.5% of their power plays in the seven games against the Kings—and it's easy to see why the season ended early (again): San Jose finished 1-for-19 on the power play in the four losses.
- We know the Sharks can score: they finished sixth in goals per game in the regular season (2.91).
- We know the Sharks are solid on defense: they finished fifth in goals allowed per game (2.35).
- And we know the Sharks can penalty kill: they finished sixth in penalty-kill success (84.9%).
So all they really need to do for 2014-15 is figure out how to convert more of their own special-teams chances, and they'll be ready to hoist the Cup next June.
(If it were only that easy.)