BOSTON — Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson is not only a leading candidate for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding defenseman, he’s also worthy of Hart Trophy consideration as the league’s most valuable player.
That’s been evident throughout the Senators’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Karlsson again was spectacular for Ottawa in its 1-0 Game 4 win over the B’s on Wednesday night at TD Garden, which has given the Sens a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Karlsson’s unreal slap pass to Bobby Ryan in front of the Bruins net in the third period, which the power forward capitalized on, was the play of the game.
“He’s our best player and arguably the best player in the world,” Ryan said of Karlsson. “Every night he’s going to break the game open somehow, whether shooting or making plays like he did (Wednesday night).”
Karlsson has tallied a point in every game of the series. He’s totaled five assists with 11 shots on goal through four contests, and he’s playing more than 25 minutes per game against the Bruins’ top lines.
The Bruins have had almost no answer for Karlsson in this series — his speed and creativity with the puck have created many quality scoring chances. That must change or Boston’s season could end Friday night in Game 5.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Senators Game 4.
— The Bruins played well defensively as they allowed only one goal. In particular, the B’s did a better job of closing down time and space when the Senators gained entry to the attacking zone.
This shot chart, via HockeyStats.ca, shows Boston didn’t give up many good looks in the danger areas around the net.
Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said his team “defended fairly well,” and later added, “in a 1-0 game you can’t be that critical of your D-men.”
He’s right, especially with three regular defensemen — Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Brandon Carlo — out of the lineup because of injuries. Game 4 certainly was an improvement after the Bruins allowed four goals in each of the two previous contests.
— Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask gave his team a great chance to win. He made several excellent saves throughout, including a stop on a 2-on-1 Sens rush in the second period and denying a Karlsson breakaway in the opening frame.
Rask stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced and was a key reason why the Bruins went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill after shorthanded struggles in the two previous games. Rask has been a bit inconsistent in this series — a pair of one-goal games with two four-goal games in between — but he wasn’t the reason the B’s lost Game 4. In fact, he was their best player.
— Bobby Ryan has been a beast in this series. The Senators right winger scored the overtime winner in Game 3 and tallied the only score in Game 4. He has three goals in the series, and his power forward style of play has made him difficult to handle around the net, as seen on his goal Wednesday night.
“You’ve got to give him credit, he’s a good player, Bobby Ryan,” Cassidy said. “We’ve seen that in this series. He’s a big body, and (that goal) ends up being a difference in the game.”
— The Bruins have never won a playoff series when trailing 3-1. The last time they trailed by two games and came back to win a series was the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. Boston erased an initial 2-0 deficit before also coming back from down 3-2 to win in seven games.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images