It is funny how the NHL works. From week to week, it seems that you can never tell which part of the team will either break down or become clutch in the right moments.
For the Sharks, a penalty kill that was the weakest part of their game just two weeks ago seems to be a key force on the ice in the last week.
San Jose still ranks near the bottom of the NHL in terms of penalty kill percentage, but it was their streak of eight-straight penalty kills recently that has some wondering if this defense could be as good as advertised.
The players have even said with more time on the ice comes more opportunity to mesh as a team, focusing solely on the penalty kill, which has been the team's biggest weakness to date.
With Henrik Sedin's power play goal on Saturday night against the Sharks' penalty kill, San Jose's streak was halted at eight opposing attempts.
However, this is a good sign for the Sharks, who will take anything these days when it comes to defending the zone while down a man. Maybe the biggest difference for San Jose on the penalty kill was the addition of Jim Vandermeer and the subtraction of Colin White.
Vandermeer, who has played in just seven games for the Sharks this season, is a major defenseman when it comes to blocks and grinding defense in tough spots on the ice. He has consistently been the seventh defenseman on the San Jose depth chart this season, and is attempting to provide that gritty performance game-to-game that the San Jose defense has seemed to lack this season.
Of course, we can attribute great defensive play when down a man to the fact that Antti Niemi is as solid as any goalie in the game right now.
After shutting out the Blackhawks last Wednesday, Niemi stopped 24 of the Canucks' 27 shots on Saturday night. He has only let up more than two goals once in the last five games.
Demers and Vandermeer have clearly been the best third line pairing the defense has to offer in recent games. After seeing Demers and Justin Braun share time with the bulky Colin White, the introduction of Vandermeer on the line has seemed to be that gritty final piece that the Sharks needed. Or maybe it is the subtraction of White that has made the difference.
White is that large man in the middle that every team could use, but it seems like the Sharks have reaped zero rewards from such a force in the middle. GM Doug Wilson was absolutely clutch when he acquired the massiv veteran, but it has not seemed to pay off of the team.
With White coming through on the penalty kill comes the Sharks efficiency heading upward. Until then, San Jose will have the veteran Vandermeer working hard for time on the ice and on the penalty kill.