NEW YORK - Erik Karlsson figures to be named a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman Thursday.
If he isn’t, the voting process is a travesty.
But if the Senators blueliner wants the chance to continue the chase for the trophy everybody wants this spring, he’ll have to be one of the players that steps up in Game 7 Thursday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Karlsson has been held pointless in four straight games and isn’t completely happy with the way he’s played in the playoffs.
Asked if he’s played his best hockey this series, Karlsson was blunt.
“Probably not,” admitted Karlsson. “It’s not that I’m feeling bad or anything, but I could probably do more.
“I want to produce more and do more stuff. Sometimes you’re going to have to do something else to help the team win. If that’s throwing hits, blocking shots or playing good defensively, you gotta do what you have to do to win.
“Offensively, right now, it’s tough. We score one or two goals a game and it’s not the usual kind of goals we score either. It’s tough to play against these guys. We know that. I’ve got to find other ways to contribute.”
Karlsson had 78 points — including 19 goals — during the regular season. He has one goal in the first six games of this series. It came off Michael Del Zotto’s skate on the power play in Game 2. He has been held pointless since.
Give the Rangers some credit. They declared the dynamic 21-year-old was going to be a target coming into the series. That’s certainly been the case and they’ve done a tremendous job limiting his chances.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson said Karlsson has no reason to be frustrated. He’s not the only one finding it difficult to find space against the stifling Rangers.
“There’s not a lot of room. We knew before they were going to be hard on everybody,” said Alfredsson. “Five-on-five, there’s not a lot of room for anybody. Erik’s done a pretty job overall, no question, handling all this.
“It’s a different style of game. It’s much closer together (rather) than more of an open game with more skating that makes him look even faster. It’s a little bit misleading. You don’t see him up (in the play) just because of the way the game is played.”
Former Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr, when assessing Karlsson last month, said the defenceman has a tremendous shot and gets it on net consistently. He has had a tough time getting it through this series because New York is excellent at blocking shots.
“That’s what made them successful and they’ve stuck to that,” said Karlsson. “They’ve done a really good job of limiting our chances, getting shots through and everything like that. You’ve just got to keep firing the puck. The more pucks we put through to the net, the more chances we have to win.”
Coach Paul MacLean just wants Karlsson to skate more.
“We just need him to be him,” said MacLean. “When (Karlsson) skates is when he’s at his best. He hasn’t skated the way that we need him to skate. We need him to use his skill as a skater to (help create) offence.
“He’s a target on our team, they’re going to try to get to him physically. He has to come up with ways at counteracting that. At times, he’s done a good job.”
The time is now for Karlsson and the Senators to step up.