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Erik Karlsson doesn’t seem too concerned with current goal drought

Entering the All-Star break with 39 points in his first 47 games this season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is once again one of the NHL’s top scoring defensemen (currently second behind only Brent Burns).

Seeing him at the top of the defensemen leaderboard once again, and seeing him on track to record another 65-point season, might make it a little surprising to learn that it has been 20 games, dating all the way back to Dec. 7, since he last scored a goal. That makes this the second longest goal-scoring drought of his career following a 29-game drought that took place in the middle of his rookie season when he was still only 19 years old.

That slump currently has him on pace for one of the lowest goal totals (12) of his career after scoring at least 16 in four of the past five, including a couple of 20-goal campaigns.

On Saturday, Karlsson talked about his recent slump (via the Ottawa Citizen) and how it does not really concern him at the moment because the team is continuing to win  hockey games.

“I’ve been around long enough to know things like this are going to happen,” Karlsson said. “I haven’t been needing to score that many goals in order for us to win. At the end of the day, that’s the thing you can’t take away from it. Still trying out there, but we’ve been playing good hockey. Guys have been stepping up. We’ve been getting a lot of creativity and goal scoring from different guys. Obviously that’s huge for us.”

The Senators have continued to win, owning a 10-6-4 record during his drought to help the team remain in the top three of the Atlantic Division while still having multiple games in hand on the teams that are chasing them for a playoff spot (along with a pretty decent cushion in terms of points).

But Karlsson is also right when he says “things like this are going to happen.”

While 20 games without a goal might be one of the longer droughts of his career, he has gone at least 10 games without a goal in every season of his career with the lone exception being the aforementioned 2012-13 season that was shortened by the NHL lockout and an injury. Seven previous times he went more than 14 games in a row without goal, including two different stretches (14 and 18 games) last season when he put together one of the the most dominant offensive seasons in the history of the league for a defenseman. Even the best forwards in the NHL only score in 30 to 40 percent of their games. The only two players in the NHL that have scored at least one goal in more than 40 percent of their games since the start of the 2015-16 season are Alex Ovechkin (46 percent) and Sidney Crosby (41 percent). When even the best forwards are only scoring a goal in a third of their games that leaves a lot of open space for extend goal-less streaks.

What separates the elite players like Karlsson from everybody else is their ability to not only score goals in bunches during the hot streaks that can carry a team, but to also impact play when they are not putting the puck in the net. Even without a goal in 20 games Karlsson still has 12 helpers during that stretch and remains not only the second leading scoring defenseman in hockey, but is also still the leading scorer on the Senators.

He is still the player that drives their offense.

If his past goal droughts are any indication he is going to bust out of this one soon, and when he does, he is probably going to have a surge that helps balance it out. Following his 14-game drought last season he went for five goals in the next five games and then scored two goals in three games following the 18-game drought. He scored five goals in seven games following a 15-game drought in 2014-15.

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.

Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million

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The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.

On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.

Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.

For New York, it worked out very well.

Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.

Today’s deal also gives the Isles some flexibility when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. The club now has six blueliners under contract for next season — Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield — and a seventh, pending RFA Calvin de Haan, will (presumably) be locked in as well. The same might be said of fellow RFA Adam Pelech.

Young d-man Ryan Pulock, who only appeared in one game this year, locked in through 2018.

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.