The 2011/12 season has been a magical one for the Ottawa Senator’s 21 year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson. The Swedish rearguard has amassed a total of 73 points in 75 games played this season, but his pace has slowed dramatically lately, is it merely a blip on the radar, or is it something more?
Over the past four games Karlsson has registered only one assist, and it came on the eighth goal of an 8-4 romp in the Senators game against Pittsburgh this past Saturday.
Karlsson has been knocked around by opponents all season long, but as the intensity of the games have picked up over the past month the hits have become more frequent as head coaches have begun to game plan against him specifically. Karlsson has become a marked man due to his fantastic play, and teams are going out of their way to have a man in his back pocket at all times.
He has done a good job of using his speed to avoid most heavy collisions, but all the little knocks and bumps could have a cumulative effect on the defensman’s game causing him to rush his play and make poor decisions with the puck.
It is possible that playing 25 minutes a night are starting to wear on the 21 year-old, and it is very likely that he is nicked up with some undisclosed injuries.
Anyone who has watched a Senators game over the past week will have noticed that Karlsson is also having some serious issues with his sticks. The problem being: they break every time he tries to deliver a shot. I counted three broken sticks in the game against Pittsburgh, and the announcers said he had broken upwards of 10 sticks over the past few games. Obviously he has been frustrated by the shoddy equipment as he has taken to whipping the broken sticks into the corner before he heads to the bench to get a new one.
Karlsson has only one assist in three games this season versus the Senators next opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, but with the team seemingly on the up swing after Saturday’s big win he will have every opportunity to get his house in order.
For the Senators sake he better break out of his late season swoon sooner than later, or they may find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in.