It was written ages ago that “God rested on the seventh day.”
It was also said that “On the eighth day, God created Erik Karlsson.”
Inside Erik Karlsson‘s Dominance Through Perseverance
What, you don’t remember that part of the creation story? Ok, I’ll admit it. This quote is relatively new. It was coined by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion in reference to his captain; and what he has been able to do in the post-season so far. Dorian made the comments after their series win against the Boston Bruins in the first round.
The Senators now lead their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers three games to two. They sit one complete 60-minute effort away from going to their third Eastern Conference Final in franchise history. With Ottawa in the driver’s seat, many pundits would argue that the Senators would not even have sniffed the postseason let alone be in the position to play for the right to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final without their rock on the back end in the form of Erik Karlsson, and for good reason.
Karlsson, by himself, is superhuman and has been known to be so since he came into the league winning the Norris Trophy twice turning in four consecutive 15+ goal, 65+ point seasons. However, the most remarkable thing about the Landsbro native elevating his game come springtime is his strength to power through a burden that would send the average player to the press box. He could say that he went through worse suffering a severe Achilles injury back in 2013 that set him back months before returning to suit up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He dominated even then, scoring eight points in ten games after the layoff. Karlsson also carried a 53% Corsi-for percentage leading all defensemen in Corsi-for per 60 minutes at 67.39.
The eighth day was a special one.
Suffering two hairline fractures in his heel on March 28th after blocking a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers, all Karlsson has done since is score seven goals and 24 points. He is carrying a 52% Corsi-for percentage in those 24 games. Just a flesh wound.
Hence, the divine touch described by Dorion.
In 11 postseason games, the soon-to-be 27-year old Swede has recorded a goal and an NHL-leading 11 points among defensemen. That is just three less than the rest of the Sens blueline combined. This is a trend that carries from the regular season, as he accounted for 44% of the blue line’s 161 total points. He was in on an incredible 33% of the Senator’s entire offensive output with his 17 goals and 71 points. In the 5-4 overtime victory in Game 5, he punctuated his impact with three more assists, including starting the play on the game-tying goal late as well as Kyle Turris‘s overtime winner.
Improved Defensive Game
On the other side of the puck, many have raved about how his defensive game has come around, and for good reason. On a team that gave up 58.99 Corsi-against per 60 minutes (27th), he lead the Sens defense in Corsi-against per 60 (53.9), Fenwick-against per 60 (38.9), and finished second in goals against per 60 (2.16) among skaters who has played at least 900 minutes. In the playoffs, his defensive prowess has reached new heights. Among defensemen who have played through the second round, he ranks second in Corsi-against per 60 (44.90), Fenwick-against per 60 (33.96), and third in scoring chances against per 60 (4.89).
Head coach Guy Boucher remarked to CBC Sports that Erik Karlsson’s defensive play has come from his speed.
“If you look at what he’s done this year, his back-check has probably been the most impressive stuff I’ve seen. Everybody talks about his skill, but going on offence … and [then seeing] him catch up all the way back to our net, get the puck and take off with the puck [again].”
The workload has not gotten any lighter with the Senators involved in six overtime games this post-season. This has lead him to average 28:57 per game, the most among any defensemen through the second round. The cameras have caught Karlsson on numerous occasions grimacing in pain on the ice and in collisions. However, he’s been able to overcome it all bringing the Sens to this point. A game away from the final four, where does the Sens captain think his team is in their all-around game?
“I think we’re far from where we want to be.”
A sign that the best still may be yet to come from Karlsson in this playoff year, using his God-given talent to lift a franchise to glory.