29 October 2013

Golden Linings/Crimson Bindings: EK in the offensive zone

A feature looking at the recent positives of the Sens’ play.

There is much to discuss at the moment regarding the Ottawa Senators, not the least of which is Erik Karlsson’s recent play and subsequent comments to the media that included the dropping of an F-bomb. He will be picked apart to—well, if not his heart's content, then at least his fans’ hearts’ content, and who am I to neglect my part in this duty? Only for a change of pace, we’ll be focusing on the good aspects.

Have you seen King K in the offensive zone recently? Of course you have. If you haven’t, then you haven’t been watching the games, because Karlsson is so brilliant in the OZ he causes approximately 45% of watchers to tear up (#science). The way which Karlsson stickhandles the puck just about effortlessly around the opposing forwards’ pokechecks as he pivots along the blueline is something near miraculous. He carves so fiercely along the line that it seems his legs are completely separate from his upper torso, since he’s also dragging and dangling the puck straight through unfriendly sticks.

Furthermore, Karlsson’s ability to maintain possession of the puck along the boards under direct pressure seems to surpass at least a quarter of our forwards’. Countless times EK has taken a shot from the outside only to have it bounce off a player in the shooting lane; somehow, he’s able to reach in with his stick before the blocking player is able to react and pull the puck back out to safe territory, where he can reposition himself to make a pass or another shot. Other times, he pinches in as the puck comes ricocheting off the endboards thanks to a dump-and-chase play and snags it like a snake striking to allow the Sens to gain proper possession of the zone. It’s been key in allowing Ottawa to set up a cycle in their opponent’s end.

Jumping on the rush isn’t something you’d want every single defenceman to attempt. Yet when Karlsson does it, it looks so potent that one is tempted to forgive every single defensive mistake he subsequently makes. Surely at least one non-local broadcaster has mistaken Karlsson for a centering forward on a line when the Sens lead a 3-on-2 rush; usually, those odd-man rushes happen because of him. We’ve seen in the past that he’s not afraid of crashing the net at all; now that he's back up to (relative) speed, we might just see a few more goals happening that way. His confidence, his speed and his creativity allow him to charge from coast to coast and make game-changing plays.

And lately? It’s been looking like EK is back in top form in the offensive zone. That’s good enough for now. We have more pressing problems than worrying whether Karlsson’s too creative for his own good; let’s enjoy his skills like the badly-missed creative output they are.


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