The big dog returns as the underdog Senators make the playoffs

Now that Ottawa Senators fans can stop chewing their fingernails, knowing that a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs is finally guaranteed, it’s time for a fun Friday morning exam question.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Now that Ottawa Senators fans can stop chewing their fingernails, knowing that a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs is finally guaranteed, it’s time for a fun Friday morning exam question.

What was more impressive?

A) Following Achilles surgery and a return to the lineup in a mere 10 weeks – less than half the normal recovery time – Erik Karlsson played Thursday and had 27:11 of ice time, assisted on Sergei Gonchar’s overtime winner and Jakob Silfverberg’s goal in the Senators playoff-clinching 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals, and had eight shots on goal.

Or,

B) After a gruelling, abbreviated 14-week regular season where the team played extended periods without its number one goaltender, number one centre, number one defenceman, another top line winger and another top four defenceman, the Senators somehow found a way to make it to the post-season.

Discuss.

Any way you look at the above, there were plenty of reasons for the ear-to-ear grins in the Senators dressing room late Thursday night.

In one corner, there was no end to the satisfaction of succeeding, despite the never ending injury list.

“I love that we were able to prove all those people wrong,” said defenceman Marc Methot, referring to all the outsiders who suggested it was next to impossible for the club to survive the lengthy losses of goaltender Craig Anderson, centre Jason Spezza, left winger Milan Michalek, Karlsson and fellow defenceman Jared Cowen. “We really didn’t need to talk about it (in the dressing room) because it was in our faces. We’re playing in Canada.”

Senators coach Paul MacLean said making the playoffs was a tribute to the work of everyone on the management and player personnel side of the organization for developing the necessary depth to fill the holes, but was ultimately, “a great accomplishment by the players.”

MacLean also said the success was about the tried and true philosophy of not looking too far ahead and getting caught up in the enormity of the task.

“It was a long road when we started down it and we just took it day by day, game by game, and that’s how we approached it and that’s why we had success.”

Then there was the Karlsson return. It doesn’t even make sense that he could have so much control of a game after having not played a game in well over two months.

“I felt good, my conditioning felt good,” Karlsson said, immediately afterwards. “I made some mistakes and I have to clean that up. It’s a fast game, pucks are flying everywhere and bodies, too, and it takes a little bit to get used to, but I have to figure that out.”

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson acknowledged the players were originally careful about getting ahead of themselves in terms of expectations, but they quickly recognized that Karlsson was ready for the challenge – regardless of whether he was at 80 per cent or 90 per cent of what he normally delivers.

“We were kind of cautious about what to expect from him, but we know his abilities, even if he’s not at 100 per cent and what he can bring,” Alfredsson said. “He was great (Thursday), creating opportunities for everybody else, with small plays.”

Goaltender Craig Anderson says he wasn’t surprised in the least that Karlsson ended up with more than 27 minutes of ice time.

“No, not at all, I thought he played 35 or 40 minutes,” he said, with a laugh.

For his part, MacLean says he was aware of the ice time Karlsson was piling up, knowing he was somewhere in the 14-minute vicinity after two periods. In the third period and overtime, Karlsson’s ice time picked up even more.

“To his credit, he was up and running,” said MacLean.

Was he surprised that Karlsson could play so much in his first game back?

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” he said.

 

THE NUMBERS

27:11: Erik Karlsson’s ice time

32: Alex Ovechkin goals

41: Shots on goal by Senators

20: Shots on goal by Capitals

8: Erik Karlsson shots on goal

7: Milan Michalek shots on goal

1 for 5: Senators power play

0 for 1: Capitals power play

 

Tags: , , , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment