San Jose Sharks Robbed by Vancouver Canucks, Prepare for Los Angeles Kings

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IINovember 28, 2011

Todd McLellan is looking more at how his team is playing than the final score
Todd McLellan is looking more at how his team is playing than the final scoreVictor Decolongon/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks' 2010-11 season ended when the Vancouver Canucks won 3-2 despite being out-shot 56-34. The game-winner came when a fluky bounce of the puck in double overtime was seen only by Kevin Bieksa, who put it in the net.

The Sharks' first shot at the revenge they are so good at was on Saturday night at HP Pavilion, but it mirrored the above result: Vancouver got a fluky bounce (Manny Malhotra's shot bouncing off Douglas Murray's skate) to grab the first goal in what ended up being a 3-2 game in which they were out-shot 45-27.

This game was also the mirror image of the one played against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night, detailed in the intro slide of the above link. "It's probably the best game we've played in the last five and it's the one we happened to lose," coach Todd McLellan said of the effort.

If you have six more possessions (10 more faceoff wins and a minus-four giveaway/takeaway ratio) and only two fewer hits with two fewer penalties, you are usually going to win. Attempting 22 more shots, blocking two more and getting 18 more on net will almost always get you a win.

That is the nature of hockey—luck tends to even out, though rarely this quickly. That is why at this time of the year more than ever, McLellan likes to say it is "about the process."

All the Sharks can do is look forward. They are one of three teams leading the Pacific Division with 27 points, but have at least two games in hand over any other rival and the best record in the conference. Monday they will be in Staples Center taking on the rival Los Angeles Kings, who are a point back with three more games played.

In the only other meeting between the teams, San Jose won 4-2 at the Shark Tank. The win gave the Sharks 15 points in a nine-game stretch, and they are 5-2 since then.

By contrast, it was the Kings' sixth loss in seven games (two in overtime), but they won four of their next five games. However, they have again cooled off, going 1-2-1 in their last four.

Both teams are better on the road than at home: San Jose is 7-2 on the road and LA just 6-6-1 at home.

The Kings main problem this season has been scoring, with four fewer goals in regulation and overtime than the Sharks despite playing three more games. Only four teams are averaging fewer goals per game (2.35) than LA, while only eight are averaging more than San Jose (2.90).

Obviously, the Kings are winning with defence, with only six teams giving up fewer than their 2.30 goals per game. Unfortunately for them, the Sharks are one of them, with their goals against a fraction better but still rounding off to 2.30. San Jose holds a similar edge in the faceoff circle (.002 better).

If the Kings are going to win, they will need to limit the chances of the Sharks power play and draw their guests—among the least-penalized teams in the league—into short-handed situations. Only three teams are better than San Jose five-on-five, while only eight teams are worse than L.A.

The Sharks have the NHL's fifth-ranked power play (21.2 percent) while the Kings penalty kill (83.5) is barely in the top half of the league. However, LA has  an above-average power play (17.3) that can take advantage of a San Jose PK unit that is worse than 90 percent of the league at 75 percent.