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The Daily Chum: Marc-Edouard Vlasic has taken a step back this year and injury may be to blame

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The defender hasn’t been the same since taking a puck to the face against Philadelphia.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks announced Marc-Edouard Vlasic as a late scratch before Saturday night’s loss to the Nashville Predators, saying it was due to illness. Friend of the Blog Kevin Kurz noted the defender, who skated only one shift in the third period against Dallas, wasn’t walking right while leaving the dressing room on Friday night.

If Vlasic is out the Sharks are in even hotter water than previously thought. That goes doubly true if Logan Couture misses extended time as the forward went to the hospital after the game on Saturday. However, even before this latest illness/injury, the veteran defender hasn’t been himself.

Marcus (Like A Bossk around these parts and @marcuspwhite) and I have talked about Vlasic at length over the past month to try and figure out what has gone wrong this season. Let’s start by establishing something isn’t quite right by pointing to a couple of charts from corsica.hockey; first, here’s his rolling relative fenwick percentage. This takes the fenwick-for percentage of Vlasic on the ice and subtracts the Sharks’ FF% from it. It’s not pretty.

The decline began in January, right when he went out due to injury (he took the puck to the face on Dec. 30 against the Flyers). His relative fenwick-for percentage has dropped seven percentage points this season while his partner, Justin Braun, has seen his percentage drop just four points. It’s pretty clear from where I sit who has been responsible for this drop. Need more evidence? Check out the rise in scoring chances against when Vlasic is on the ice.

Those aren’t cumulative scoring chances against; that’s Vlasic’s rolling average of scoring chances against per 60 minutes getting worse as the season goes along. You’ll notice the drop when the Sharks went on that long point streak, presumably because the team played weak competition and ate up, but the trend is concerning.

hockeyviz.com

While the Sharks have consistently given up more shots than they’ve taken with Vlasic on the ice (red on top of black is bad in this chart) since his return from injury, they’ve won the luck battle (the bottom chart). You can see, particularly recently, the Sharks have had decent puck luck with the defender on the ice.

It’s possible this has nothing to do with Vlasic taking a puck to the face, of course. I’m only noting there’s a correlation and the timing suggests a deeper look. Frankly, I can’t find a better explanation for why Vlasic’s play would drop off so much this year, especially given the convenience of the timing.

This may all prove moot if Vlasic picked up another injury against Dallas on Friday. But if Vlasic is dealing with lingering symptoms from the injury he sustained against the Flyers, I hope he lets someone know. For his sake, I hope the timing of this poor run of play is just a coincidence.