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Behind The Numbers

Scoring defensemen spark Sharks, Predators

Shot prevention, special teams also among keys to victory

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Low shot volumes, defensemen taking part in the rush, and zone-specific player deployment all will be noteworthy strategies in the Western Conference Second Round series between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators.

Here are five statistical keys entering the series:

1. Make them count: Don't expect goalies Martin Jones of the Sharks or Pekka Rinne of the Predators to be among the busiest goalies of the second round, because neither team gives up a lot of shots.

In the regular season, the Predators allowed 27.3 shots per game, the fewest in the NHL, followed by the Sharks with 27.4.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm7: Rinne snatches Fowler's slap shot

In the Western Conference First Round, San Jose allowed a League-best 25.0 shots per game, and the Predators allowed 28.6, which ranked No. 8.

2. Percentage play: In the absence of high shot volumes, the Sharks and Predators will have to make the most of their limited opportunities.

In the first round, San Jose scored on 10.0 percent of its shots at even strength, which ranked second to the Dallas Stars at 12.5 percent, and on 12.5 percent of their shots overall, which ranked No. 3 behind the Pittsburgh Penguins at 13.7 percent, and Dallas at 12.8 percent.

Nashville was a stride behind, ranking fifth with an even-strength team shooting percentage of 8.3, and 12th out of 16 teams with an overall shooting percentage of 7.2 percent.

3. Point of emphasis: Defensemen play a key role in each team's offensive strategy.

In the regular season, Predators defensemen combined for 203 points, which was tied with the Calgary Flames for the most in the League, followed by the Sharks in third with 179 points.

Video: LAK@SJS, Gm4: Burns buries Ward's great feed for PPG

In the first round, Brent Burns led the Sharks and NHL defensemen with eight points. In Nashville, defenseman Shea Weber tied Colin Wilson for the Predators lead with five points, and defenseman Roman Josi was tied with James Neal, Filip Forsberg, and Ryan Johansen for third with three points.

4. Sharks feel the power: One of the Sharks' greatest weapons is a highly effective power play, which scored on 22.5 percent of its opportunities in the regular season, and on 23.8 percent against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.

The Predators have experience playing teams with a strong power play, having competed against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. The Ducks led the League with a 22.9 power-play percentage in the regular season.

Nashville's power play was the least effective of all teams in the first round, with one power-play goal in 26 opportunities.

5. In the zone: Nashville coach Peter Laviolette continued the strict player deployment strategy he used in the regular season into the playoffs.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm7: Gaustad redirects shot to extend lead

In seven games against the Ducks, the line of Paul Gaustad, Miikka Salomaki and Cody Bass, the latter replaced by Colton Sissons in Game 7, lined up for one faceoff in the offensive zone and 51 in the defensive zone.

In contrast, Mike Ribeiro lined up for 43 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 10 in the defensive zone.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer deploys his lines in a more balanced fashion, with relatively equal zone starts for every line.

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