clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Daily Chum: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun shut down Steven Stamkos

Oh, and Vlasic scored a goal.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’m notoriously critical of Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shooting ability. It is not very good, at least by NHL defender standards, but that’s small potatoes given his incredible defensive ability. It doesn’t hurt that despite not having much of a shot, Vlasic already has three goals this year.

Yes, that puts the 2016-17 season in a tie for seventh in best goal scoring years for Vlasic in his 11-year career and his 0.2 goals per game would be the best of his career if he keeps it up. He probably won’t, nor does he need to, as this offensive output is just gravy.

The real reason Vlasic is one of the best defenders in the NHL is because of his, you know, defense. That stood out on Saturday night as Vlasic and Braun absolutely shut down the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top line. Steven Stamkos found no room to skate as the Sharks’ top pairing absolutely dominated in the team’s 3-1 victory.

For those new to these charts, check out the far left column. That’s Vlasic in red to the far left. Now scroll down until you see the giant square that is almost only red. That’s the Lightning’s top line — that it’s all red means Vlasic absolutely dominated while they were on the ice together at 5v5.

Shutting down one of the most gifted offensive players in the NHL is what Vlasic gets paid to do, but it’s easy to take it for granted because that’s what we do with amazing defense. I love goal scoring and wish there was more of it in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some damn good defense.

This chart shows just how good Vlasic was in comparison to everyone else on the ice. Yes, being on the far right is a very good thing. The only player even in the vicinity of Vlasic and Braun is Victor Hedman, who also happens to be pretty good at the whole ice hockey thing.

Vlasic’s play doesn’t show up in all stats because of the quality of the opposition he faces, but Saturday night the numbers matched the eye test. We’ve called Vlasic underrated for so many years that I’ve wondered if that’s even true anymore. I think it probably is because as conservative as the NHL is, defense-first players still seem to get swept under the rug.

For at least one night, Vlasic and Braun deserve the spotlight. Now go back to being underappreciated and unnoticed on Tuesday, boys.

On an unrelated, but important note: we’re up to $90 donated to Next Door Solutions.