The loss of Karlsson will hurt the Sens the most at even-strength. It’s one thing to eat up a lot of ES minutes (1st in ES TOI in the league), but to dominate is another. With Karlsson on the ice this season, the Senators had 59.6% of the scoring chances, meaning their opponents took just 40.4%. In other words, when Karlsson is on the ice, the Sens play like a team worthy of the Stanley Cup.
But everything changes once he’s off the ice.
Without Karlsson, the Sens play like a below-average team, getting just 47.3% of the chances. The other thing that needs to be considered is that Karlsson was playing against the opposition’s top players, and doing a damn good job of it. Without Karlsson, somebody (most likely Gonchar) will have to take on this workload. Consequently, somebody from the third pair will have to take on Gonchar’s 2nd pair minutes, and then either Benoit or Borowiecki will slide into the vacant spot on the bottom pairing.
This is just like after Spezza got injured. Kyle Turris, who was playing well on the 2nd line, but all of a sudden had to absorb Spezza’s minutes, responsibility and defensive matchups; he hasn’t scored a goal since, while running negative in scoring chances at even-strength.
Quite simply, it’s going to be a lot tougher to win games without Karlsson’s ability to drive possession against opponent’s top lines for 27+ minutes per night. If the team still has playoff aspirations, they’ll need to have a few guys (Greening, Smith and Michalek all come to mind) step up big, especially since they can’t rely on Craig Anderson to keep up a sterling 94.9 save percentage for the rest of year.
If not, it’d be a real shame to see this team collapse in what might be Daniel Alfredsson’s last season.
Fortunately for the Sens, they’ve built themselves a nice cushion, and currently sit 6th in Eastern Conference with 34 games remaining. MacLean has his work cut out for him.