Kings/Sharks Game 6 Preview: The Power Play

Despite the lack of scoring there's a lot to talk about in this series. Darryl Sutter has been adjusting lines masterfully, Logan Couture's comeback in game three, and the great play of Antti Niemi and Jonathan Quick are only a few of the subplots in this exciting series.

But with the Sharks facing elimination tonight the power play is the top priority. Los Angeles and San Jose have had incosinstent power play success often determining the outcome of games this series. Before dissecting the power play rates in this series let's take a look at each teams power play and penalty kill percentages throughout the playoffs.

Kings - Through 11 Games
  Result/Chances Percentage Shots Shots/Chance
Power Play 6/30 20% 48 1.6 shots/pp
Penalty Kill 31/36 86% 38 1.05 shots allowed/pk

 

There are two things to consider when looking at the Kings' graph. First, their power play and penalty kill percantages are fairly successful. A 20% conversion rate and 86% kill rate are high enough numbers to lead to a succesful postseason. Second, the Kings have given up six more penalties putting themselves into a marginal hole when it comes to extra man opportunities. With the way Jonathan Quick is playing, allowing only 1.05 shots/penalty has led to their penalty kill percentage being high.

The Kings' postseason will rely on penalty kills rather than power play goals, which we will visit later when looking at the percentage of power play goals to goals in the postseason. 

Sharks - Through 9 Games
  Result/Chances Percentage Shots Shots/Chance
Power Play 10/44 23% 56 1.27 shots/pp
Penalty Kill 19/25 76% 30 1.2 shots/pk

 

The stat that immediately jumps out is the number of power plays / penalty kills. The Sharks have had 19 extra-man opportunities this post season. The explanation between the disparity is playing a desperate Vancouver team in the first series (they gave up 16 penalties in the final two games) and facing an aggressive, highly-penalized Kings team.

The Sharks succesful power play unit is weighed down by the questionable penalty killing unit, which despite rarely being on the ice has allowed six goals. The 23% conversion rate posted by the Sharks is not as great as it looks and needs to be higher for San Jose to mount a comeback.

Perhaps the most important stat is power play goals / total goals in the postseason. 

Kings
Series PPG/Total Goals Percentage
Blues 2/12 16%
Sharks 4/11 36%
Postseason 6/23 26%

 

Sharks
Series PPG/Total Goals Percentage
Canucks 7/15 46%
Kings 3/7 43%
Postseason 10/22 45%

The gap between the percentage of power play goals/ total goals between the Kings and Sharks is gigantic. The Kings scored just over a quarter of their total goals on the power play this postseason while the Sharks are barely under the halfway mark. Considering that the Kings have scored one more power play goal this series than the Sharks (4 to 3, respectively) is the reason they are looking to close the series tonight.

The Sharks have only won one game this postseason when they haven't scored on the power play (game two in Vancouver). The Sharks' 23% rate suddenly doesn't seem as high and are just under 16% this series against the Kings. With the Sharks offense relying so heavily on their power play success tonight's biggest match up will be the Sharks power play against the Kings penalty kill.

Another growing disparity for the Sharks is their success (in this series and the post season) on the man advantage when they play at home. Taking tonight's significance into consideration look at the Sharks power play at the Shark Tank this series compared to their success efforts at the Staples center.

Sharks Power Play Against Kings
  Result/Chances Percentage Shots Shots/Chance
Shark Tank 3/9 33% 11 1.22
Staples Center 0/10 0% 14 1.4

In the two games the Sharks have won (at home) this series three of their four goals have come on man advantages. With the way Quick has been playing this postseason the quality rather than the amount of shots are what is important. The key for a Sharks victory is making the extra pass around the crease, which may result in less shots or chances but will drastically raise their number of high percentage opportunities.

The key for the Kings will be staying out of the penalty box. San Jose's power play unit is lethal at home (33% against Kings; 39% against Vancouver) and Annti Niemi has held the Kings to only one goal per game in San Jose. 

It will take a 60 minute (maybe more) focused effort by the Kings to stay out of the penalty box and prevent Sharks' skaters to hang around the crease. Last season's rampage through the playoffs relied heavily on fantastic road play and shut down penalty units, tonight the Kings need both.