Even though he’s averaging a point per game and nearly 27 minutes a night in the playoffs, Erik Karlsson isn’t the same player he was prior to suffering a lacerated Achilles.
Just ask his coach.
“I don’t think he’s close to what he was before he got injured,” Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Citizen. “He was a dominant, dominant player, possibly the best player in the league at the time of his injury.
“Our expectation wasn’t that [his play] would be at that level.”
This is likely a case of coach protecting player.
In Game 1 of Ottawa’s Eastern Conference semifinal against Pittsburgh, Karlsson looked a step slow and somewhat hesitant during one of his poorer postseason efforts.
The reigning Norris winner didn’t look especially good making a questionable pinch (also laboring to recover) on Pascal Dupuis’ goal:
That said, MacLean knew getting Karlsson back so quickly after such a serious injury would result in adjusted expecations.
“Our expectation is that Erik is going to make us a better team because of his abilities to move the puck and help us on the power play, to quarterback that,” MacLean explained.
“Our expectation isn’t that he’s the Norris Trophy-[winning] Erik Karlsson. We just want him to come out and play and help our team win, and let his teammates help him.”
Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.
Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:
Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).
The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.