Erik Karlsson

Assessing Erik Karlsson’s Norris Trophy hopes

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The 2012 All-Star weekend was, in many ways, a celebration of Daniel Alfredsson’s career with the Ottawa Senators.

Obviously, he wasn’t the only Senators representative in the event, though. Bruce Garrioch indicates that it was something of a coming out party for budding star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who might still seem like a relative unknown to many media members despite being far and away the leading scorer at his position.

That’s what happens when you’re in your third NHL season on a team that fell off the radar a bit after a tough 2010-11 season. Garrioch argues that Karlsson strengtened his Norris Trophy argument this weekend, so I thought it might be fun to break down how he compares to his peers in more traditional stat categories (sorry Corsi lovers).

Scoring

Karlsson is a gifted point producer, starting with his assists. He has 40 in 51 games, which places him eight points ahead of Brian Campbell – the only other blueliner with more than 30 helpers at the moment. In fact he’s second in the entire league in assists.

His seven goals ties him for ninth amongst defensemen and he’s firing a ton of shots. In fact, he’s also first overall in shots on goal with 168; Dan Boyle is second with 157. Karlsson’s 4.2 shooting percentage could rise a little bit, too, although D-men generally pile up low-quality shots as they often aim to create dangerous rebounds in many cases.

There’s little reason to expect Karlsson to slow down much offensively as Ottawa plays in high-scoring games. Karlsson had 26 points in 60 games in his rookie season and 45 last year, so it’s clear that the 21-year-old is still improving in an already strong area.

Time on ice

It’s not like Karlsson is just swooping in on the power play and doing nothing 5-on-5, either. (Although his 4:06 minutes of PP time per game ties him for eighth overall with Ryan Suter.) Karlsson is 10th overall with 25:27 minutes per game, ranking him slightly ahead of Dion Phaneuf, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty.

The one area that hurts him – in my eyes, anyway – is that he’s not killing penalties. He only averages 41 seconds of PK time per contest.* If you ask me, a Norris-worthy blueliner should be a team’s go-to guy in nearly every situation.

Team success

Fair or not, my guess is that the Senators need to make the playoffs for Karlsson to have a real shot to win. I’d say that Ottawa is in the “second tier” in the East with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers as team’s who might fall short of division titles but should be safe for a postseason run as long as they avoid a total meltdown.

***

Overall, I think Karlsson has a solid Norris argument, with competitive total ice time, unparalleled offense and a respectable +5 rating. (I don’t like plus/minus, but voters do.) I’d probably lean toward a do-everything guy like Chara or Shea Weber instead, but wouldn’t be offended if he lands in the finalists group.

Where do you think Karlsson falls in the Norris argument right now?

* – Only Cam Fowler’s 35 second average (24:05 minutes per game for 20th place) and Dustin Byfuglien’s 43 second of shorthanded time per game (2:38 minutes per game at 30th place) compare to Karlsson’s scant PK time for top-30 time on ice guys.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.