Will special teams make the difference in series?
It’s not difficult to predict that special-teams play will play a big part in this first-round series between the Kings and the San Jose Sharks. In the regular season, the Kings ranked 21st in power-play efficiency and fourth in penalty-kill efficiency, while the Sharks ranked second in power-play efficiency and 24th in penalty-kill efficiency. The team that can maintain its special-team strength and improve its weakness might have the upper hand.
Going deeper into the numbers, the teams were close to equal this season in terms of 5-on-5 scoring. The Sharks scored 154 goals while the Kings scored 148 goals. In terms of 5-on-5 goals against, the Sharks allowed 133 while the Kings allowed 141. In terms of power-plays goals, for and against, the Sharks scored 68 and allowed 56, while the Kings scored 47 and allowed 40. Of course, in facing a strong power-play team such as San Jose, the Kings can greatly help themselves by staying out of the penalty box as much as possible, a strategy that certainly had the endorsement of Terry Murray…
MURRAY: “That’s always important in the playoffs. You don’t want to bring the referees into the game. You want to make sure you’re playing the game the right way, hard between the whistles, and then you try to eliminate that hooking, reaching-in stuff that end up being cheap calls that you don’t like to kill off as a team. So, knowing that going in, we know that (Sharks) power play is one of the best in the league. They showed us some unbelievable stuff in the last game that we played against them. Penalty killing is going to have to be really good. The reads are going to have to be sharp and right on the mark in order to get through any kind of penalty-kill situations that we have. I don’t want to see us get into a situation where we’re looking at relying on our penalty-kill guys too many times in the game.”