Sharks Can Continue to Benefit From Ducks' Penalty Problems

The Anaheim Ducks entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as one of the league's most-penalized teams, something the Sharks took full advantage of in a Game 1 win Thursday night. 

San Jose had six opportunities on the power play, including the five-on-three where Evander Kane scored his first-ever playoff goal. Anaheim killed off the other five penalties, good for an 83.3 percent penalty kill percentage that was pretty much right at their season average (83.2). But the damage was done, as Kane's goal stood as the eventual game-winner. 

Conversely, the Sharks killed off all three penalties they were called for, excluding coinciding minors for Brenden Dillon and Corey Perry at the final whistle.

The Ducks clearly tried to get under the Sharks' skin in the series opener, with Brandon Montour and Ryan Kesler among the biggest agitators. But for the most part, it didn't work, and San Jose largely stayed above the fray.

Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin told reporters that the lack of discipline was "uncharacteristic for [his] team," yet Game 1 was not really a drastic departure from either team's identity when it comes to penalty differential.

The Sharks, who finished fourth in penalty differential (plus-31, per Corsica Hockey), drew three more penalties than they took. The Ducks, who finished dead-last (minus-60, 26 clear of the next closest team), did the opposite. 

Nor was it a drastic departure from when these teams have played each other lately. Since Randy Carlyle, a coach whose teams are known for a particularly prodigious proportion of pugilism, returned to the Ducks bench last season, San Jose has had 13 more power play opportunities (34) than Anaheim (21) in 10 games. 

Including Thursday, the Sharks are 6-3-1 against the Ducks during that time. That's not to say that they've won solely because of their penalty differential, but consider this: If you take away both teams' power play goals, San Jose's goal differential against Anaheim over the last two seasons drops from plus-six to plus-five. 

The Ducks' identity hinges on being a team that's "hard to play against," so long as they toe the line. But in Game 1, and for much of the last two years, the Sharks ensured their Southern California rivals crossed said line. 

"I thought they took six penalties and deserved every one of them," San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after the win on Thursday. "If they want to continue to do that, then we'll continue to play our game. If they don't, we'll still continue to play our game."

If the recenty history between the two teams is any indication, Anaheim may yet continue to do that, even if it plays right into San Jose's hands. 

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