Erik Karlsson: Speedster will be a marked man

Erik Karlsson: Speedster will be a marked man

The last time Erik Karlsson was in a playoff series, he flew in under the radar. He was only 19 and in his first season in the NHL when the Ottawa Senators played the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010.

That season, he had only five goals and 21 assists in 60 games, decent enough totals for a first-year player, but nothing much to worry about, though in the end the Penguins might have wished they’d paid more attention after he had one goal and five assists in the six-game series.

He won’t be lightly regarded anymore, though. After a record-breaking season that should see him on the list of finalists for the Norris Trophy, everyone knows his name.

With his speed, vision and a deceptive shot that manages to find its way to the net, Karlsson’s the straw that stirs Ottawa’s offensive mix from the blue line.

As a result, he’s going to be one of the main targets in these playoffs. The strategy will be to stop him before he gets started, because once he gets started, he can scarcely be stopped.

He won’t be alone. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek will be watched closely, too. But if Karlsson can be stopped from getting the puck to Spezza, Alfredsson and Michalek, it’ll cut off a big part of Ottawa’s offence.

At 6-0 and 180 pounds, Karlsson is slight, and he’s going to face a lot of heavy traffic. How he stands up to the pressure will be one of the keys to this series. But with the confidence only a 21-year-old can possess, he says no, he’s not worried. “Not at all, no, nothing,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not anything you can control, you just have to play your game.

“The only thing I can do is play my game and try to play the same way I’ve played for the whole season, and see how far it takes me.”

His teammates are also not worried.

The Senators — including the likes of Chris Neil and Matt Carkner — will obviously be watching closely to make sure Karlsson isn’t subjected to cheap shots and dirty hits.

But no one thinks he’s going to wilt and fade away.

“He’s faced it here the last 20 games, more and more, people wanting to finish their check on him all the time,” said Daniel Alfredsson, who knows Karlsson better than anyone on the team. Because they know if he gets a step on them, he’s gone. So they know if they can do it, they can help themselves a lot as a team.

“Will he get hit? Sure he will, and he knows that and is not afraid of it, either. I think once you start hesitating and stop going into certain situations, you get in trouble, and he won’t do that.”

Tags: , , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment