March 15, 2012
Karlsson nears historic high pointsOn pace to become first defenceman to be top 10 in scoring in 20 years
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - Sometimes it's necessary to step back and look at the big picture to fully appreciate exactly how impressive Erik Karlsson has been this season.
Karlsson entered Wednesday's game tied for seventh in NHL scoring with 69 points, and if he can stay close to that slot, he'd be the first defenceman to finish in the Top 10 since Brian Leetch was ninth, with 102 points, in 1991-92.
Yes, 20 years ago.
Paul Coffey was tied for sixth in 1994-95, but that season was shortened to 48 games by the lockout. Doesn't really count, does it?
Nicklas Lidstrom is the only blueliner in the past 15 seasons to finish as high as 17th, when he had 73 points in 1999-2000. Last season, Lubomir Visnovsky was tied for 26th overall as the highest-scoring defenceman in the NHL.
He had 68 points.
"I didn't know that," Karlsson said when told of the Top 10 fact after the morning skate, before mumbling. "Thanks a lot."
Some players believe talking about something can be a jinx. To a certain degree, Karlsson is one of them.
"We still have 12 games left. Still going to have to produce, still going to have to win games," he said. "It's going to be tough. You've got to keep it up. Even though 12 games doesn't sound like much, it's still a pretty long way. It's a month. Anything can happen. Maybe you get in a slump. Or maybe you get hot."
Of course, Karlsson could catch on fire and not catch the leaders. Before Wednesday's games, Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin were tied for first with 84 points.
The great Bobby Orr is the only defenceman to ever win a scoring title, and he did it twice -- in 1969-70, with 120 points, and 1974-75, with 135.
Will another blueliner put his name on the Art Ross Trophy again?
"No," said Karlsson. "If a defenceman is ever going to win the scoring title, he's probably going to have to put up 70-75 assists. Even though some people might have been close to that, it's still pretty hard.
"If that ever happens .... no, I don't think it will."
He's 21. He's young. He can change his mind.
Knowing Karlsson a little, he will.
STARTS AND STOPS
Okay, so maybe it didn't look like a fair matchup when big Jared Cowen fought a Finn named Petteri Nokelainen in the first period. But Nokelainen did drop the gloves first, and after the guy he chose for his only other regular-season scrap -- 6-foot-3, 240-pound Andy Deveaux -- Cowen owed himself a softer touch. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Nokelainen absorbed a few that weren't so soft ... Two of the toughest Senators wore pink shirts with their suits and fedoras on the train ride here -- Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka. "Pink shirt WITH cuff links," Konopka specified. "That's what happens when you haven't done drycleaning in a while." Said Karlsson: "I don't think they had pink shirts back in the day."
WHO'DA THUNK IT?
Playing his first game on Bell Centre ice since Nov. 13, 2010, Andrei Markov was the recipient of some cheers when he touched the puck for the first time. The injury-prone Markov left the game in the second period when a Jim O'Brien shot went off his stick and hit him in the mouth, and the way Markov kicked his helmet as he headed to the dressing room, it was as though he figured that this time, his jaw was broken. It wasn't, as Markov returned later in the period ... Karlsson's fiancee Therese is an excellent cook, he says. "That's why I'm so thick," explained Karlsson, who is especially fond of her potatoes au gratin and a couple of her pasta dishes. "If it wasn't for her cooking, I'd probably weigh about 150 pounds." Karlsson remains listed at 180, and the way he put Erik Cole on his back in the first, that might be close to the truth.
A TV guy caught Jason Spezza off-guard after a morning skate in which he did not participate. "I understand your wife is in labour right now," he said to the Senators centre. Spezza's mouth dropped. "She better not be," he responded. "If you know something, tell me." Turns out the TV guy mixed up Jennifer Spezza with Tomas Kaberle's girlfriend. "My wife's close," said Spezza. "We're expecting a baby any day now. But I don't think she's having it as we speak. If she is, I'm in trouble." Depending on how "soon" the couple's second child decides to enter this world, dad could miss either Friday's game against the Habs or Saturday's vs. Toronto. At least they're both at Scotiabank Place.
ON THE SCHNEID
Easy to understand if folks don't get too excited about the Senators' signing of UConn star Cole Schneider to a two-year entry-level contract. Schneider, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound left winger who had 23 goals and 22 assists in 35 games as a sophomore this season, is the latest in a list of collegiate free agent signings by the team that include Jesse Winchester, Bobby Butler and Stephane Da Costa. Thing is, Winchester would be a regular if he wasn't injured and Butler, back to being a healthy scratch, might still wind up making an impact. So if Schneider only becomes part of the organizational depth (he is to join Binghamton next week), you should remember it's not like these guys are a bad draft pick or anything. All they cost the Senators is money and the time invested used scouting them. Assistant GM Tim Murray says the 21-year old Schneider is a skilled player with good hands. "Obviously has to get stronger, but we saw him night after night at UConn, and he was the best player there," said Murray. "We just like his skill set, and we think he brings an offensive dimension to our team down the road. We had our guys identify him early in the year, and then we followed up on him a couple times in the last couple months here and watched him play a lot, and just liked what we saw."