SAN JOSE What do you do when your penalty kill sits at 29th in the NHL, after finishing last season 24th in the league?
Simple. You change it up.
Thats what coach Todd McLellan did during a very technically oriented portion of Wednesdays practice at Sharks Ice. Specifically, the Sharks would like to be more aggressive in the neutral zone, making it tougher for opposing teams to bring the puck up the ice.
Its all new to everybody, said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. We went through it on the ice, and I think everybody got a good sense of what the coaches wanted to change.
The Sharks have allowed at least one power play goal in six of their last seven games, dropping their penalty kill percentage to just 72.3 percent. The one game in which they didnt allow a goal while down a man was against Pittsburgh, was when the Penguins didnt have a single power play opportunity.
Against the Kings on Monday, the Sharks gave up a goal on a two-man disadvantage in the second period, and later allowed Anze Kopitar to get his own rebound on a Los Angeles power play in the third period after the Kings easily moved the puck through the neutral zone.
Kopitar's goal, in particular, is one the Sharks dont want to see again.
Last game there was one on the rush that we didnt really want to give up, said Boyle.
Our up-ice pressure in what weve done coming through the neutral zone, weve made a number of mistakes and its costing us, said McLellan. Weve got to look at ways at filling those holes and starting to support each other for mistakes.
That, in particular, was something McLellan was trying to explain on Wednesday. He slowly walked through every situation on the ice and positioned each player based on where the puck was, or where it was going.
Its all different than what we have been doing on the forecheck. Positioning, trust factor, just basically trusting that in the new system that everybody will be doing their jobs, said Vlasic.
Fortunately for the Sharks, a good power play and excellent five-on-five numbers have been able to mask the penalty killing problem. San Jose is seventh in the NHL on the power play (21.3 percent) and second in the league in five-on-five goal differential (1.39).
Our power play has been fine this year and were scoring five-on-five so thats a real healthy sign, said McLellan.
Boyle agrees with his coach, saying: The power play has been pretty good and five-on-five has been pretty good. The PK has kind of been the one area that needs major improvement. We definitely dont think its a personnel issue. We have the right guys. We just have to clean it up.