San Jose Sharks' Under-the-Radar Weapon for 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff Run

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIMarch 30, 2013

Brent Burns is part of the under-the-radar weapon of the San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns is part of the under-the-radar weapon of the San Jose SharksVictor Decolongon/Getty Images

Assuming the San Jose Sharks are the same team after the April 3 NHL trade deadline has passed, they do not have the look of a 2013 Stanley Cup champion.

They followed five regulation wins to start the season with just three in their next 24 games. They couldn't score during the slump, and had allowed eight straight teams to score at least three goals.

Yet they possess one thing still flying under the radar that could make them poised for one last playoff run.

No, it is not the desperation of the window closing in the offseason. Only the Sharks can say whether that will be inspiration enough for an heroic playoff run.

One of the reasons the Sharks have now hit three wins in a row for the first time since the seventh game of the 2013 NHL season is Brent Burns returned as a forward. But this can hardly be seen as "under the radar" considering his All-Star talent and that he has already played the position for nine games.

The one that is flying under the radar is the second power-play unit.

NHL statistics for 2011-12 show the San Jose Sharks had the second-best power play in the NHL at 21.1 percent and were 13th in scoring at 2.67 goals per game. Even with the recent boost in power-play scoring, they are 19th at 17.9 percent and are thus third-worst in scoring overall at 2.33.

That is one goal per three games lower. Almost that entire margin can be attributed to an absence of scoring by the second power-play unit. The unit was second in the league in power-play goals in 2011-12, per

They are now starting to click with four goals in the last 11 games. That is four times the rate they scored them before (two goals in the first 22 games) and results in an increase of three goals per 11 games.

In other words, to make up the drop from last year's scoring, the Sharks need only come up with an extra goal some other way in that 12th game.

But what does it matter if they match production from a season in which they had their worst finish in nearly a decade and won just one playoff game? Because the defense is a goal per nine games better in 2013.

If the Sharks can be 13th in scoring at 2.67 goals per game and finish sixth defensively at 2.39 goals allowed, they will be good enough to challenge for a Stanley Cup. All it takes is for the second power-play unit to keep doing what it has been doing for 11 games—being serviceable.