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In a Season of Losing, Vlasic & Sharks Still Playing Winning Hockey



Credit: AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel

Marc-Edouard Vlasic knows winning hockey.

From his rookie campaign in 2006-07 to 2018-19, Vlasic was part of a San Jose Sharks franchise that made four conference and one Stanley Cup finals, and missed the playoffs just once.

The 35-year-old and the Sharks have fallen on hard times, with his icetime cut from his zenith as a world-class shutdown defenseman and the team three years and running out of the playoffs.

But Vlasic is still capable of winning hockey, which he demonstrated last night in the San Jose Sharks’ 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Early in the final frame and hanging onto a one-goal lead, Vlasic (44) stepped into a Nico Sturm (7) pass, stick cocked for a prime scoring chance. But Conor Sheary (73) came up with a huge shot block, and it was a 3-on-1 the other way for the Caps.

“It’s unfortunate the shot gets blocked and that can happen. I mean, everybody’s doing the right thing,” San Jose Sharks bench boss David Quinn said. “They get a piece of it, they do a good job blocking a shot, and now they’re going the other way 3-on-1.”

In a fast-moving game like hockey, mistakes – this was more bad bounce than mistake – are inevitable. But how you recover, how you react to misfortune?

That’s often the difference between winning and losing. Winning teams don’t skip a beat, losing teams are a step behind.

Key here is how hard Vlasic and Oskar Lindblom (23) track back to even up the 3-on-1.

Instead of Mario Ferraro (38) having to fend off Sheary, T.J. Oshie (77), and Lars Eller (20) by himself, Lindblom races after center lane option Eller, and Vlasic hunts down Oshie.

That leaves Ferraro with a more manageable 1-on-1 against Sheary. Ferraro attacks Sheary, forcing a pass to Oshie. Lindblom has caught up with Eller, taking away Oshie’s drop pass option.

Now, it’s up to Vlasic, and craftily, he times his stick lift as the six-time 20-goal scorer is about to fire away at Aaron Dell.

Let’s slow it down!

“That was huge, that was a great play. I think I yelled it at him afterwards,” Dell, who stopped 7-of-7 shots in relief of the injured Kaapo Kahkonen, shared. “But yeah, it was still 2-1 at the time. So that could have changed the whole outcome of the game.”

The San Jose Sharks are just 17-26-11, but they’re 3-1-2 in their last six with victories over the probably playoff-bound Caps, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Tampa Bay Lightning.

“This deep into the season, obviously, like we’ve talked about all year long, no one has had more heartache than us in our losses,” Quinn said of the Sharks, whose 11 overtime/shootout losses lead the NHL. “And to continue to be able to play the way that we did tonight, that’s a heck of a play by Marc.

“To put your head down and dig deep the way that Pickles did, just really summarizes our night in a lot of way. Summarizes what’s been going on here over the last few weeks.”

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