San Jose has 5-2 victories in the two Western Conference quarterfinal playoff games against the Golden Knights in which Marc-Edouard Vlasic has started and finished.
From the time the stalwart defenseman was hurt early in the second period of Game 2 until the end of Game 4 when he was out of the lineup, the Knights outscored the Sharks 13-3 and lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.
There is no denying the impact the 32-year-old blueliner has on the Sharks.
“He’s a good player,” Knights forward Paul Stastny said after Saturday’s practice in preparation for Game 6 on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena. “He’s been on Canada’s Olympic team, the World Cup team, World Championships. You add a world-class player like that back to your lineup, it’s obviously going to make a difference and instill more confidence in their group.”
Vlasic is capable of getting up in the rush and producing points, but his strength lies in providing a defensive presence who tends to maintain his discipline and allow Brent Burns opportunities to improvise and create.
“He’s very solid defensively and definitely balances out that pair,” Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “He allows (Burns) to get out and be a little more comfortable knowing he’ll be back there. He moves pretty well, and he’s a veteran guy. He’s a big player for them and just a really solid guy.”
Vlasic’s return for Game 5 was a major reason the Sharks silenced a Knights’ second line that had dominated Games 2, 3 and 4.
Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone combined for 10 goals and 23 points in those three games before getting shut out in Game 5.
San Jose coach Pete DeBoer used his option of last change to match up the units as much as possible, but he loses that opportunity for Game 6 with the Knights having that choice at home.
Knights coach Gerard Gallant downplayed the advantage.
“We’ve got good depth on our team, so I’m not worried about Vlasic and Burns,” he said. “They’re good players. They’ll play against some of our top players, and we’ll do the same to their top players. I’m not worried about that.
“They just played better (in Game 5). … But I don’t know. You have to ask (DeBoer) what they did differently against them.”
Stastny said he knew the crazy run eventually would end.
“I don’t think you’re going to score four or five goals every single game as a line,” he said. “For us, it’s important to come back. We had an off game, but we’re going to bounce back. None of us are satisfied with it. For us, it’s more about having more zone time and making them play defense. It was a little too much one-and-done.”
Pacioretty had scored multiple points in every game of the series until Thursday.
“They got an important player back last game, and they probably feel much better about their depth getting him back,” he said. “(Our line) had a bit of an off night. We didn’t create as much as we felt we should have to help the team win. … As a line, we feel like it doesn’t matter who we play against.”
Golden Knights’ Stone clarifies Ottawa comment
Golden Knights forward Mark Stone wanted to make clear Saturday that he meant no disrespect to his former city or team when he made a comment about how much he’s enjoying his return to the postseason.
“Playoff hockey. It’s always fun,” Stone told a reporter from the Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun before Thursday’s game in San Jose. “These are the type of games you want to be playing in as a hockey player. If I wasn’t having fun, I’d probably still be in Ottawa.”
Stone requested a brief meeting Saturday with the two reporters after practice.
He said he loved his time in Ottawa, the Senators organization and the fans. He said he meant no disrespect and was trying to convey that he only would have made the decision to leave for an ideal situation like Las Vegas, where he could play for a Stanley Cup instead of participating in a rebuild.