Karlsson’s injury no excuse for ‘shoddy play,’ says MacLean

Following a season in which the Senators missed the playoffs for the first time in three years, head coach Paul MacLean had a very frank assessment of the guy he considers to be his best player, Erik Karlsson.

From The Casket (a weekly publication from Nova Scotia):

CASKET: Erik Karlsson, former Norris trophy winner, could be considered a high-risk defensemen in some aspects of his game. What are your thoughts on his game?

MACLEAN: Erik is one of the best defensemen in the league and ended up with 70 points for us this year. Offensively, he’s gifted. Defensively, his competitiveness was hampered by his continuous recovery from his Achilles tendon injury he had last year. He’s not a big guy so he has to depend on his skating ability and stability on his skates and he didn’t have a lot of confidence in that. In saying that, it can’t be an excuse for some of the shoddy play he had during the season. He is our best player and moving forward he’s going to be an important part of what we do.

Karlsson led all NHL defensemen in scoring this year, with 74 points — 13 more than the next closest guy, Duncan Keith — and had near-identical possession metrics (54.8 percent Corsi, 4.3 percent relative) as he did during his Norris-winning campaign in 2011-12.

So, what was the problem this year? If you want to read between the lines on MacLean’s other comments, it was the turnovers.

“Our defensive zone play was a concern for us and part of that was how we exited our zone,” MacLean explained. “We turned the puck over more than anyone in the league inside our defensive zone and that certainly led to scoring chances for the other teams. Our goalies didn’t have much of a chance on some of the turnovers.

“Moving forward that’s one of our biggest concerns. We have made some strides in our defensive zone but still have lots of work to do there.”

Though the giveaway statistic is questionable — namely, the criteria for what constitutes one — it is telling that Karlsson led the Sens with 115 this year, 47 more than the next guy on the list (Jason Spezza). Given the number of minutes Karlsson logs and the number of breakouts he’s responsible for, it’s understandable that his giveaway total would be high… but he was by far the league leader too, registering 15 more than Taylor Hall and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who had 100 each.

 

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.