James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Erik Karlsson keeps rising

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quick note before we begin:


Don't forget that Rotoworld is the place to be for all your fantasy news on February 27 during the NHL's Trade Deadline Day. In addition, Michael Finewax will be doing a live chat from 12:30-4:00 pm ET and joining him will be some of your favorite writers from NBCSports.com Pro Hockey Talk and Rotoworld.



The Ottawa Senators were the main focus of Tuesday’s Daily Dose, so it feels a little awkward shining the spotlight on the surprisingly effective bunch again so soon. At the same time, I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t comment on the things they accomplished against the dreadfully freefalling Washington Capitals last night – especially since the biggest trade of the day ranked as one of those subtler deals.


While Monday’s game provided a nice spread of star-quality options for Ottawa, Erik Karlsson’s success stood out clearly last night. The Senators’ stupendous sophomore scored a goal and two assists, giving him 47 assists in 2011-12 - the most helpers in a single season for any defenseman in Senators franchise history. He’s also the second blueliner in team history to reach the 60-point mark. Oh yeah, he also has 20 contests left, so he’s likely to demolish the team’s other defensive scoring marks and make a serious run for the Norris Trophy in the process. (After all, Karlsson has 20 more points than second leading scorer Brian Cambell’s 40.)


Karlsson wasn’t the only Senators player who had a great night, although he admittedly carries them above the fold as a result of his history-making work. Milan Michalek hit the 27-goal mark after recording two tallies and provided a rather bizarre celebration afterward. Craig Anderson eventually allowed two garbage goals by Washington, but that happened after he made some absolutely sensational saves to crush the Capitals’ spirits when the game was still in doubt.


Ottawa briefly tied the Boston Bruins with 72 standings points, although that was misleading because of the difference in games in hand. Boston's back above them with 74 points and four more games on its schedule, so stealing the Northeast still seems unlikely. Speaking of the Bruins, let's move onto what was the "marquee matchup" on Wednesday.




With the Detroit Red Wings’ historic home-winning streak and the Chicago Blackhawks’ expired nine-game skid drawing all the attention, another noteworthy Central Division run slipped under the radar. It wasn’t really until the Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 22 that many people realized how ridiculous Ken Hitchcock’s gang has been at home lately.


The Blues were on a franchise record 21-game points streak (18-0-3) before the Bruins finally put another smudge on their record in St. Louie with a 4-2 win. The Blues’ last regulation loss came to the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3, so yeah, it's been quite the run. Brad Marchand lead the way with two goals while Tim Thomas topped Brian Elliott, who seemed to suffer from some rare bad bounces.



The Phoenix Coyotes sent Curtis McElhinney and some picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Antoine Vermette – who originally came to Columbus in the Pascal Leclaire trade. If you ask me, Vermette should fit in perfectly in Phoenix.


  • He’s a great skater.
  • Vermette is a very nice two-way player.
  • Expanding upon that last bullet point, Vermette is very effective at winning face-offs.
  • While he’s shown some offensive aptitude, he generally struggles to put up consistent offense (27 points in 60 games this season, a career-high 65 points in 2009-10).


Seriously, could the guy be a more perfect fit for Phoenix? That’s basically what you picture when you hear the phrase “Phoenix Coyotes top-six forward,” isn’t it? Now, I’m not certain if that’s where he’ll be penciled into the lineup, but they gave up the kind of assets that would make you think that Vermette will get a shot. Either way I wouldn’t say that he has a ton of fantasy potential unless he has a Wojtek Wolski-like run to start things off.



The Colorado Avalanche did something that’s rarely done against the Los Angeles Kings last night: they poured on three goals in the first period and cruised to a 4-1 win. That victory pushes them deep into the Western Conference playoff bubble mix while simultaneously pulling the Kings closer to the pack.


Steve Downie looked OK in his Colorado debut, but the win was more about a strong performance by Semyon Varlamov and a near-hat-trick by Paul Stastny. Considering the struggles faced by those two during most of this season, something positive could be brewing. Varlamov is the most interesting factor because he could re-gain the top job – or already has – over an ailing Jean-Sebastien Giguere. As you probably know, starting goalies are tough to come by, so certainly keep an eye on this situation if the Avs continue to play well.



Much like Monday, two netminders were pulled from last night’s games and one of them was Tomas Vokoun. The struggling Czech netminder allowed four goals on just 11 shots, although at least he made it through 32:08 of game time instead of 5:09 like Monday. Vokoun is now on a three-game losing streak and has gone 1-1-3 in his last five contests.


Jonathan Quick getting pulled might be a little bit more surprising. The Kings goalie had a rough night - and a short one - as Darryl Sutter yanked him in the first intermission after making only eight out of 11 saves. Quick is 0-3-1 in his last four games, although in typical 2011-12 Kings style, he only allowed a single tally in each of the first two defeats.



OK, you can really cross Tuomo Ruutu off trade rumors lists now. The Carolina Hurricanes signed him to a four-year, $19 million contract extension … Todd Bertuzzi is reportedly on the verge of signing a two-year extension of his own with the Red Wings … I didn’t get to mention this yesterday, but man, Steven Stamkos already has 42 goals. Evgeni Malkin is way behind with 33 tallies … Kyle Clifford has been suspended indefinitely, which matters a lot to Kyle Clifford and that's about it … The Capitals are shopping Roman Hamrlik. George McPhee probably shouldn’t focus on his (often quite bad) performances this season too much, then … The Maple Leafs are reportedly shopping for a goalie – likely a veteran-type … Stephen Weiss is on the verge of playing more games than anyone in Florida Panthers history with 614 … Speaking of tonight, the Vancouver Canucks are hoping to stop the Red Wings’ home streak at 23.



Alex Ovechkin didn’t play last night. No word on how serious the injury is, but it sounds like a lower-body deal. Maybe … Jonathan Toews might just be dealing with a concussion ... Robyn Regehr is day-to-day with a lower-body injury … Byron Bitz’s problematic hip appears to be a problem again. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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