In today’s NHL, it’s difficult to gain ground in any one of the four divisions. Nobody knows that better than the Ottawa Senators.
Despite posting an impressive 3-0-1 record to open the 2017-18 campaign, the Senators are just third in the Atlantic Division, trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-0) and Toronto Maple Leafs (4-1-0). Nipping on Ottawa’s heels are the Detroit Red Wings (4-2-0). Although it’s early, this is a far cry from the past. The competitive NHL saw four points separate the second- and fifth-place Atlantic teams in 2016-17, when just two decades prior, 28 points separated the same positions in the division.
Needless to say, a competitive advantage is necessary for the Senators to stay relevant in a deep NHL talent pool, even if it is this early in the season. Karlsson provides an offensive push to a team that is averaging 3.80 goals-for per game (seventh in the NHL).
Karlsson, who missed the first five games recovering from offseason foot surgery to repair torn tendons, has been a power-play and even-strength offensive catalyst since his 2009-10 rookie campaign. Last season, the two-time Norris Trophy winner tied for the eighth-most power-play points in the NHL (27) and scored the third-most points by all NHL defensemen (71). Although the Senators are proving they can get it done without their star player, his insertion back into the lineup adds another element of offensive terror in the opposing goaltenders.
The Tuesday Matchup – Vancouver Canucks
As expected with a rebuilding franchise, the Canucks have sputtered out of the gate. Under new head coach Travis Green, the Canucks are 1-2-1, scoring just nine goals in that span (2.25 goals-for per game, 23rd in the NHL). The team’s starter, Jacob Markstrom, has played in every minute for the Canucks, posting a 2.96 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. He and the Canucks’ young defense have been somewhat impressive for their situation to open the season, ranking seventh in the league with just 13 goals against (3.25 goals-against per game).
The Senators will likely have trouble with the Canucks’ penalty kill, as they are tied for sixth in the league (87.5%). It will be intriguing to see the difference in the Senators’ setup with Karlsson returning, as Chris Wideman and Dion Phaneuf have been the primary defensemen used when on the man advantage, and Mike Hoffman has seen his share of minutes manning the point.
The Ottawa home game begins at 7:30 ET and can be seen on TSN5 in Canada or on NHL.TV.
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