• By: Dave Gross

Karlsson’s Value Can’t be Questioned For Senators

SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.

Feature photo by NHLI via Getty Images

Hart Trophy: Awarded annually to the "player judged most valuable to his team."

After this past week's disastrous series of happenings and subsequent results, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson is clearly and most obviously in that discussion.

Ironically it isn't for what he did on the ice, it is for what the rest of his team looked like when he wasn't on it.

In case you've been living in a wooden shack in the Canadian wilderness and missed the news, Karlsson took a shot in the foot in the Senators Tuesday night loss in Philadelphia. For the first time in seemingly forever, Ottawa went foraging for wins without their captain in the lineup.

The results were astounding.

Without Karlsson (and to a lesser degree, Marc Methot), the Senators collectively morphed into the Three Stooges. Dysfunction, disconnection and lacking any semblance of direction, Ottawa played (easily) its worst game of the year Thursday in a 5-1 thumping by Minnesota. To put it into perspective, the Wild had won just three times in their previous 15 games, but they sure looked like the Chicago Blackhawks against Ottawa.

The Senators then traveled to Winnipeg on Saturday. Did they play a little better? Sure. Did they still struggle with getting the puck out of their end, consistently? You betcha.

Karlsson's value can't be questioned.

Let's face it, every skater on this team breathes a lot easier when he's in the lineup and on the ice for generally 25-30 minutes per game

Nobody in the league is as adept at calming down an enemy attack by grabbing the puck and smoothly carrying it to safety out of the defensive zone.

As well – nobody leads the offensive charge into the offensive zone as effectively.

Add to Karlsson's resume a firm commitment to defence and blocking shots this season, and well, you get the idea. He's irreplaceable.

Ottawa had not tasted life without Karlsson since Feb. 16, 2013.

Now that they have, it's a taste they would prefer not getting used to.

NOTES AND NOTIONS: As much as March went out like a lion (not a lamb) weather-wise, you can draw a parallel with the Ottawa schedule. The Senators play five times in seven days to end the regular season. It's the first time all season Ottawa's had that busy a week . . . They're not alone – Toronto also plays five-in-seven to close things out . . . Credit the young Leafs for not only hanging in, but excelling down the stretch. Toronto is 7-1-1 in their last nine games after Saturday's win in Detroit . . . What a great feeling in Alberta this past week. First Edmonton, then Calgary clinched playoff spots. It was just the second time in the last eight seasons for the Flames to join the spring fling. For Edmonton? The Oil hadn't seen a playoff game in 11 seasons . . . To put it into perspective – as CBC pointed out – the last time Edmonton played a playoff game, Twitter was just a month old, and Nepean's Steve Yzerman – now running the show in Tampa – was still playing in the NHL . . . Edmonton's last playoff game: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2006 . . . Connor McDavid was nine-years-old . . . 2006 was also the last occasion both Alberta clubs were in the post-season together . . .This could be the most competitive upcoming awards season in history: Norris – Burns, Hedman or Karlsson; Hart – Sid, Bobrovsky, McDavid, Karlsson, Price, Burns or Kane (you can make a case for Brad Marchand too, he's been that good); Jack Adams – Babcock, Torts, Boucher, Gulutzan, Quenneville or McLellan; Calder – Matthews, Laine, Murray, Werenski or Tkachuk . . . This just in: Colorado and Arizona actually WON hockey games on the same night. Really. It. Happened. Friday night, Colorado dumped the Blues (literally and figuratively) while the 'Yotes beat Washington. The last time this happened, Judd Nelson scored a hit movie (we live to pick on former Breakfast Club cast members . . .).

Tuesday: Philadelphia 3, Ottawa 2 (SO)
Thursday: Minnesota 5, Ottawa 1
Saturday: Winnipeg 4, Ottawa 2

Monday: Ottawa at Detroit (7 pm)
Tuesday: Detroit at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Thursday: Ottawa at Boston (7 pm)
Saturday: NY Rangers at Ottawa (12:30 pm)
Sunday: Ottawa at NY Islanders (5 pm)

* End of regular season