Marc-Edouard Vlasic

In praise of Marc-Edouard Vlasic

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s been very good for the Sharks this year, though it’s not entirely fair to call this a “breakthrough” campaign. He probably won’t eclipse his career-high in points (36, set in 2008-09) and he’s actually averaging the fewest minutes per game (21:47) of his seven-year career.

To hear Sharks GM Doug Wilson explain it, the man they call “Pickles” has always been great — it’s just that this year, people are finally starting to notice.

“A lot of people don’t see our guys play, but you really appreciate them when you see them day-to-day,” Wilson said, per Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “[Vlasic] might be one of the most fundamentally strong defensemen I’ve seen, probably, in the last 20 years.

“The Olympic team, when they did all their research, when you look at this guy — he was at the top of their list right out of the gate.”

Wilson knows of what he speaks when it comes to playing defense. An eight-time All-Star, Wilson won the 1982 Norris Trophy and, that same year, set Chicago’s still-standing franchise record for goals (39) and points (85) by a blueliner.

Vlasic’s play is a big reason why the Sharks head into tonight’s action atop the Pacific Division with 103 points, two back of NHL-leading St. Louis. His advanced possession statistics rank him among the best in the league (in the case of Corsi Relative, a possession metric relative to the rest of his team, Vlasic’s the best.)

With Canada at the Olympics, Vlasic proved his mettle on a team many considered to be one of the best defensive squads ever. He averaged over 16 minutes a game, provided the perfect foil for partner Drew Doughty and earned high praise from head coach Mike Babcock in the process.

“I just told somebody [Monday] morning that Vlasic is way better than everybody knows,” Babcock said. “He’s a really, really good player; [Drew] Doughty gets to do anything he wants and Vlasic is always in a great spot.

“He’s a good defender, he’s become harder. He used to be a thin kid, now he’s a thick man. He’s hard, he’s smart, he skates, he moves the puck and he’s safe.”

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.