Both the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks come into Tuesday night’s game struggling offensively.
The Sharks have scored only six total goals in their last four games, leading to a 2-1-1 record (both wins coming in a shootout). Similarly, the Hawks have scored only seven goals in their last four contests, leading to a 2-0-2 record (one overtime and one shootout victory for Chicago).
When they take the ice tonight, special teams will undoubtedly play a significant role in the outcome of the game.
Coming into Tuesday, the Sharks have had more power play opportunities – 50 in nine games - than any other team in the NHL; Toronto (47) is second, while the Blackhawks have had 35 advantages in their nine games, ranking 15th in the league.
How important is the power play to San Jose’s success?
The Sharks have converted 13 times on the power play to date, which is tied with Tampa for the most in the NHL. That number represents roughly 45 percent of the Sharks’ total scoring for the season (29 total goals, 0 short-handed).
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have had their struggles converting with the man advantage, converting only 20 percent to date (seven goals). However, those seven goals represent only 26 percent of the Hawks’ total scoring on the year (27 total goals, 0 short-handed).
The flip-side of the argument, of course, is the defense that will face the two power play groups.
Chicago’s penalty kill is currently the number one ranked unit in the NHL, having allowed only two goals in 36 opponents’ chances (94.4 percent). Equally impressive is the number of times the Hawks have been sent to the box. Of teams with at least nine games played to date, only Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Minnesota have gone to the box fewer times.
The Sharks’ PK has also had a relatively good start to the season as well, ranking sixth in the league to date (87.8 percent). However, all five of the power play goals the Sharks allowed came in their first three games; San Jose has killed all 27 penalties they have faced in their last six games.
The numbers indicate the Hawks have been the better five-on-five team this season, and the Sharks are playing the back-half of a back-to-back with travel home from Anaheim involved last night. But San Jose has been very good this year and would love to hand the Hawks their first regulation loss of the season. Which team can stay out of the box, and can convert when given the opportunity, will make a significant impact in tonight’s game.