Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks is wheeled off the ice after being injured in Tuesday's win over the St. Louis Blues. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Marc-Edouard Vlasic needs to step up for San Jose Sharks with Dan Boyle injury


Marc-Edouard Vlasic Set to Become Go-To guy for the San Jose Sharks

The injury to Dan Boyle was a gruesome one, and at this point it’s unknown how long the San Jose Sharks will be without their top defender. The NHL is a tough league though, and extended stays on the IR for one guy always opens the door for players further down the depth chart to step up and make an impact.

San Jose has received massive boosts from the likes of Tomas Hertl and Matthew Nieto this season, who were only able to step onto the ice on opening night because of injuries to Martin Havlat and Raffi Torres. It’s hard to imagine, but somewhere in the quantum hockey universe there is a version of the 2013-14 NHL campaign that hasn’t featured any Hertl power.

While we obviously hope for a speedy recovery for Boyle, the Sharks are set to play again tomorrow, and will likely have one hole in the lineup to fill against the Dallas Stars. While it’s impossible to totally replace Boyle’s slick first pass out of the zone and foot speed, the Sharks have several defenders who should have ample opportunity to fill in for a game or two.

One has stood out above all the rest early on though.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in all the Hertl-mania has been Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s scorching start. He’d be the story of the season so far if the offense wasn’t scoring five goals a game. He’s quietly posted five points through six contests and is on pace to put up 68. While it’s highly unlikely we’re witnessing the second-coming of Bobby Orr in Vlasic here, he’s shown an ability to make some outstanding plays early on.

Over the last few seasons, Vlasic has developed into one of the most underrated shutdown defensemen in the NHL. Apparently under all that defensive-zone acumen he’s been hiding a 40-point player. His career best was 36 back in 2008-09, and he was on pace to easily crack that mark prior to the Boyle injury.

Vlasic is one guy that could see increased power play time and have a chance to really bolster the attack for San Jose while Boyle is on the shelf. According to Dobber Hockey’s invaluable Frozen Pool line frequency tool, Vlasic has played nearly 75% of his even-strength shifts with Justin Braun and has seen very limited time on the power play.

Boyle’s absence will force the Sharks to shake things up a bit, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Vlasic bumped up the depth chart at both even-strength and on the power play. He’s an invaluable penalty killer, but he’s got the hot mitts right now and will be a go-to guy for San Jose as Boyle heals.

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