Karlsson cartoon

Sens Spotlight: Erik Karlsson

From today’s program.

It’s a pretty chalky choice to select Karlsson to spotlight when the Senators visit. But there’s hardly any point in talking about anyone else. In pretty much every sense, Erik Karlsson is the Senators.

The surface numbers are silly enough. Karlsson is the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer. As a d-man, that’s ridiculous. He’s averaging over a point-per-game, and if he continues on this pace he’ll break 70 points for the third time in his career (he amounted 66 last year as well). Should he stay at this pace he’ll have three of the top five scoring seasons by a d-man since the Great Bettman Lockout II, the one that canceled out a whole season. If he can better 80 points, he’ll also have the highest, which currently is held by Nicklas Lidstrom and that was from 50 power play points. Karlsson only has about a third of his points on the man-advantage right now.

When you dig a little deeper, it becomes more apparent just how Atlas-ian Karlsson has been for the Senators this year. Only two d-men in the league have higher Corsi marks relative to their team, that’s Aaron Ekblad and Victor Hedman. In Ekblad’s case, he gets far cushier zone starts than Karlsson does, starting over 60% of his shifts there while Karlsson starts only about 55%. Karlsson also faces harder competition than the other two, taking on the toughest the Sens face pretty much every night.

When looking at his teammates, almost every one of them see their possession numbers drop anywhere from seven to 12 percentage points from when they’re on the ice with Karlsson to when they’re not. His partner Marc Methot goes from a 48% Corsi player with Karlsson to 39.7% without him. Kyle Turris drops 9 points. Mark Stone drops six points. Mike Hoffman drops 11 points. It continues down the lineup in that fashion.

What’s more startling is how the scoring rates change. When Turris and Karlsson are out there together, the Sens score 3.55 goals per 60 minutes at even-strength. When Turris is on the ice without Karlsson it’s 1.67. Stone is 3.37 with Karlsson to 1.57 without him. Hoffman? 4.14 to 2.95. Every single player drops down at least a goal per 60 miuts without Karlsson behind them.

There’s been a lot of digruntled voices over Karlsson’s two Norris Trophies, because he doesn’t kill penalties. None of these saggy-balled codgers can tell us what d-man has ever won the Norris simply on his penalty killing though. It’s like complaining about a DH getting into the baeball Hall of Fame. How many players are there simply due to their glove? Like three? Patrick Kane has gobbled up most of the Hart talk, and rightly so because the Hawks wouldn’t be a playoff team without him. What he hasn’t Jamie Been probably has. But Karlsson should be right there with them, because without him the Senators are probably in Auston Matthews territory come the end of the season.

Does he also have to be so good-looking too, though? Seems a bit unfair.

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