Tonight the Sharks head in to the awkwardly-named Xcel Energy Center (XTREME!) to face the Wild. San Jose is coming off two consecutive 5-2 wins over teams that have been struggling, and while Minnesota is a step-up from Anaheim and New Jersey in terms of record, they're still only .500 on the season. So I guess you can't really say that this will be a barometer game for the Sharks? You know, one of those where they use the game to see if they can keep up their quality of play against an elite opponent? Yeah, I guess it's not really that kind of game. Forget I said anything.
Anyways, things have certainly been looking up for the Sharks recently. Setting aside the awful loss to the Flames* the Sharks have won two games by a score of 5-2, one game 6-1, and one 4-2, all in the past two weeks. As expected, scoring isn't a problem for the Sharks, and the Heatley - Thornton - Marleau line currently looks like it could take on Zeus himself.
I complained a while ago that Joe Thornton and some other players have really poor plus/minus ratings, but that has mostly been fixed by the two recent victories and the uptick in even-strength scoring. The worst on the team is Joe Pavelski, but he also has eight points and has been scoring a bunch as the power play point-man so we don't really need to worry about him. Of more concern to us is Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Here are his stats for the season so far:
|2010 - Marc-Edouard Vlasic||0||0||0||-5||0|
That's hella ugly.**
Vlasic is the only player on the Sharks who has played all nine games without a point. And he's not a marginal player or anything - he's out there for 18-20 minutes a game. What's he doing out there all that time? Aside from getting minuses, I mean?
Vlasic isn't a guy the Sharks look to for a lot of points, but you would certainly think that with all the time he has been out there and all the goals the Sharks have been scoring, he'd have picked up at least one assist by accident or something. And he can't blame his minus on the power play like some of the other guys can, since he doesn't play much on it. He's our regular stay-at-home defenseman, one of the players I and others repeatedly claimed prior to the season was a solid top-paring guy.
To be fair, I haven't noticed Vlasic screwing up a lot or anything. I can remember at least six times this year when Douglas Murray has made an awful give-away that led to an opponent's goal, but somehow Murray is a plus two. What's up with Pickles?
We all know that the plus/minus stat can be pretty flukey, especially over the short term. The Sharks have only played nine games so far, and I'm sure if they keep rolling Vlasic will pick up some plusses and maybe even some points soon enough. If for some reason Vlasic's stats DON'T improve, then we may have some trouble coming. The Sharks defense is thin enough without one of our rocks having an off year.
Prediction: Vlasic reads this article and gets fired up. The Sharks win 3-1, with two goals and a fight from Marc-Edouard.
Finally, yes, I'll admit it, this whole article was just an excuse to post this video. It might be the best one since Joe Thornton and Slappy. Enjoy!
* = Which, I'm sure you all remember, we agreed never happened.
** = NorCal for life!