It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
The same could be said for the San Jose Sharks, who have dropped the first two games of a seven-game homestand that could make or break their season.
Bob Boughner and Vlasic talked about his struggles, while Vlasic’s new-old partner Erik Karlsson shared his perspective on why Jordan Binnington “fake punched” him on Saturday night.
San Jose Sharks (7-9-2)
Projected lines for the #SJSharks.
Alex True makes his season debut and Jones in the net.
— Locked on Throwback SZN (@LockedOnSharks) March 1, 2021
Colorado Avalanche (11-6-1)
(HT Adrian Dater)
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Altitude Sports, or NHL.tv.
Yesterday, Bob Boughner promoted Marc-Edouard Vlasic back onto the second pairing with Erik Karlsson. But it was a promotion with a challenge attached:
Full Boughner quote on Vlasic: "Pickles has got to elevate his game. I had that talk with him this morning. Sometimes, you gotta challenge players. I'm challenging him to step up." pic.twitter.com/75EfzSaHOH
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 28, 2021
Boughner clarified what he’s looking for from Vlasic-Karlsson tonight: “Playing quicker, playing faster. Especially against this team, not giving up the back of the net, be able to eliminate and close off plays defensively. But also be able to make the plays exiting our zone to our forwards with some possession and speed.”
Over the years, Vlasic has become too much of a glass-and-out blueliner – I think because his slowing motor and feet don’t allow him that extra split-second he used to have to get to that puck, to make a better play – we’ll see if he can push back against that trend tonight.
For his part, Vlasic expressed confidence that his partnership with Karlsson would work this time around.
“Me and Erik will get it together, and we’ll get the job done,” he insisted. “Not just tonight. But moving forward, we’ll be a good pair.”
Boughner outlined what he’s looking for individually from the 2014 Olympian: “He’s got to play with more urgency defensively, he’s got to play with a little more sandpaper, he’s got to step up and be hard to play against.
“Be first on pucks, move our feet a little more, things like that. He knows, he has that ability.
“He’s got a lot of hockey left in him. He’s a proud guy, and he accepts a challenge.”
Vlasic did shoot down the suggestion that his decline was because of effort, or a lack thereof: “An effort thing? Everybody works hard every night. I work hard every night.”
However, neither Boughner nor Vlasic offered much of an explanation for the veteran’s underwhelming performance this season.
“I can’t really tell you why,” the San Jose Sharks’ bench boss said. “Some guys are faster starters.”
“That’s a good question,” Vlasic noted. “I don’t know. I just gotta be better.”
Meanwhile, on the lighter side, Karlsson couldn’t help but smile when asked about Jordan Binnington’s meltdown on Saturday, which included Binnington taking a fake punch at Karlsson.
BINNINGTON JUST PUNCHED THREE PPL 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/3r44erYEm1
— Tony X (@soIoucity) February 28, 2021
“I don’t think it was me. I think I just happened to be where he was going.
“I didn’t see him until I thought I was getting decked by his blocker there.
“He got pulled, he was mad, they’re probably not playing the way that they want to right now. He was frustrated, he let it out.
“In a way, I think we laugh about now, it was pretty fun to see.
“I don’t think he was out there looking for certain guys, I think he just zoned out for a little bit and went after whoever he saw first. I happened to stand there, minding my own business in the neutral zone.
“But again, it worked for them. So you know, good on him and good on them.”
SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Night
Per SPORTLOGiQ, there are a couple key categories where Colorado is tops in the NHL and the San Jose Sharks are the worst.
The Avs are, perhaps surprisingly, really good at limiting scoring chances. They’re best in the league in Even Strength Shot Attempts From the Slot Against (17.5 Per 60) — the Sharks are 31st (25.2).
Not so surprisingly, Colorado paces the NHL with an 80.9 ES Zone Exit Success %. This is defined by SPORTLOGiQ as percentage of even strength exits that reach the neutral zone. San Jose is last at 76.0 — which doesn’t seem like a big difference, but of course, it’s those one or two times you should’ve exited cleanly that end up in the back of your net.
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