Being known for having a stellar penalty kill is a very good thing. Being known for taking a lot of penalties? Not so much. But that's the spot the Sharks find themselves in right now.
San Jose has gone 9-1-0 over its last 10 games after defeating Los Angeles 4-3 in overtime Monday night and has only given up two power-play goals during that time. However, over that span, the Sharks have also made 35 trips to the sin bin. And while their potent PK is ranked first overall in the league, they also lead the NHL with 295 penalty minutes racked up over 25 games.
If the Sharks aren't careful and if they don't stop taking so many penalties, their winning ways could be in jeopardy.
Monday night's game against the Kings was a perfect example. San Jose had the ice tilted in its favor for nearly 40 minutes of play. But going on the penalty kill three times in the first two periods visibly took the wind out of the Sharks' sails, which allowed LA to claw back from a 3-0 hole and tie the game up in the third frame.
"From the bench, we looked tired (in the third period)," Logan Couture told reporters after the game. "I don't know if it's because we had 11 forwards or if it was just the fact that we took so many minors and we had to kill off five or six penalties, but we just looked tired in the third."
The captain brings up a very good point. The Sharks played their third game in a row with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. While that strategy has yielded wins in three straight games, it also runs the risk of tiring the team out faster. Spending too much time on the penalty kill on top of the added burden raises the risk of everyone getting gassed.
Such was the case in LA on Monday. The penalty kill left the Sharks tired in the third period as the Kings went from trailing 3-1 to knotting up the score 3-3.
"In our heads, we have to come out and have the right attitude to come out in the third period and put that game away," Timo Meier admitted. "We've got to learn from it."
And that's really what it comes down to. San Jose has found different ways of winning over this last 10-game stretch, despite making mistakes along the way. The key, however, is to learn from those mistakes and evolve as a team. So far, the Sharks haven't quite corrected their penalty problem.
That gives San Jose something to work on as it continues to recover from a tough start to the season.
"It's a learning curve and a learning process," Erik Karlsson summarized. "We went through our hard time in the beginning (of the season) and hopefully now we can just keep pushing forward and learn from the things we need to do better."
Learning to not take so many penalties is a good place to start.