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No NHL team benefits from penalties quite like the Sharks

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Just about every sports fan base probably feels like officials have in it for them in some fashion. Lambasting the referees might be the one thing rival fans can agree on during “neutral site” games.

Once emotions subside, facts can clarify some of these thoughts. Some teams draw a ton of penalties but take a lot, too. Others don’t do much of either. The San Jose Sharks seem to enjoy the best of both worlds, or at least something close to that.

Using NHL.com’s handy team stats, let’s look at the advantages the Sharks have enjoyed (whether they’re earned or not is subjective) when it comes to power play/penalty kill differential.

(Note: PHT will also take a look at the other end of the spectrum soon.)

First, here are the teams that were on the power play for at least a half hour longer than they were on the PK in 2016-17 (again, via NHL.com’s team stats).

Team PP TIME PK TIME DIFF
San Jose Sharks 420:12:00 362:07:00 58:05:00
Philadelphia Flyers 464:24:00 415:27:00 48:57:00
Chicago Blackhawks 394:10:00 349:02:00 45:08:00
Carolina Hurricanes 387:18:00 345:17:00 42:01:00
Detroit Red Wings 426:20:00 388:13:00 38:07:00
Nashville Predators 430:22:00 395:41:00 34:41:00
Vancouver Canucks 403:58:00 371:25:00 32:33:00
Florida Panthers 454:51:00 424:39:00 30:12:00

As you can see, that’s a pretty significant gap between first and second place.

The Sharks rank 11th with power-play time (420:12) and were at the disadvantage at the fourth-lowest rate (362:07) last season. Shockingly, this edge wasn’t optimized, as San Jose drew even in scoring 41 power-play goals while allowing 41 shorthanded.

Now, that’s just one season. What about, since, say … the last lockout? Let’s consider how the top teams sorted out from the abbreviated 2012-13 campaign through 2016-17:

Team PP TIME PK TIME DIFF
San Jose Sharks 2036:49:00 1711:34:00 325:15:00
Carolina Hurricanes 1923:23:00 1648:42:00 274:41:00
Chicago Blackhawks 1926:51:00 1728:00:00 198:51:00
Minnesota Wild 1954:50:00 1759:33:00 195:17:00
Calgary Flames 1977:04:00 1797:57:00 179:07:00
Dallas Stars 2098:48:00 1925:24:00 173:24:00
Nashville Predators 1959:27:00 1828:12:00 131:15:00
New York Islanders 1909:56:00 1789:07:00 120:49:00

During that 376-game span, the Sharks tower over everyone else, with only the Carolina Hurricanes being within breathing distance. Yes, 325 minutes in 376 games is a notable edge.

Over that longer haul, the Sharks were high-ranking with a 2,036:49 power play time and faced low PK minutes at 1,711:34.*

Unpacking home vs. away for a moment

Is it all “home cooking” for the Sharks? Well, looking at 2016-17, they received 126 power-play opportunities at home vs. 120 on the road. If they’re getting an edge, perhaps “The Shark Tank” subtly intimidates officials not to call penalties on San Jose? They were shorthanded 99 times at home vs. 113 on the road. That’s not enormous either, but it’s still a difference.

That disparity isn’t particularly pronounced since the lockout, with the Sharks being shorthanded 507 times at home vs. 530 on the road. On the other hand, the opportunities are a little more pronounced at HP Pavilion: 644 at home vs. 591 on the road.

That’s not extreme by NHL standards, however, as the Stars saw 688 home PPO’s vs. 582 on the road through the same period. So … home-cooking doesn’t seem like a major difference-maker for the Sharks. Or at least it isn’t the only factor.

To hypothesize, some of the differences may stem from the Sharks hold onto the puck quite well while playing strong and responsible defense. Looking over almost as long of a period as that lockout range at stats.hockeyanalysis, the Sharks were the fourth-best team in “Corsi For” percentage; perhaps they enjoyed such an advantage after having tired teams chase them around while they hog the puck?

Ultimately, the greater takeaway might be that, if the Sharks can at least approach such an advantage again in 2017-18, they need to work harder at exploiting such advantages. They only converted on 16.7 percent of their power-play opportunities last season, placing them 25th overall in the NHL.

Again, a future PHT post will ponder the teams that spend more time killing penalties than they do on the man advantage. Spoiler: a California team’s rough style has its minuses.

* – Note: the Arizona and Phoenix Coyotes are treated as separate entities in the bigger list, gumming up the works a bit … but the differential comes to about -90 minutes, placing them in the lower-teens.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.