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.”