By Mike Harrington
Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson combined on the short-handed goal that beat the Sabres Tuesday night in Ottawa and the Senators looked pretty darn good in that game even without the injured Jason Spezza. Goalie Craig Anderson had a 42-save shutout and played like the NHL's best.
But Michalek suffered an unknown lower-body injury during the warmup last night in Pittsburgh and now Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner, is done for the year after suffering a lacerated Achilles in a collision with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke. Karlsson will be out at least 3-4 months, Sens GM Bryan Murray said today. So that's it for him.
I didn't like the Cooke play at all. Brendan Shanahan issued no suspension today and I see that. It's hard to judge intent. There wasn't even a penalty on the play. But what was Cooke's leg even doing up there? Was he getting ready for a slew foot?
The media is all over the place on this one. Lots of former players are saying it was a good hockey play and there's no way Cooke meant to do that (how do they know?). Some point out Cooke was looking to his right. TSN's Aaron Ward -- one of the best new analysts out there -- showed a lot of video last night explaining how players ride their man into the boards and that's all Cooke was doing.
TSN doesn't have embed codes but you can watch the video at this link. Worth a look.
I heard former Sabre Andrew Peters on the radio this morning give a plausible explanation that Cooke was off-balance and was bringing his left foot down to push off on the ice for his next step. The foot instead sliced Karlsson.
All that said, Cooke's foot was up quite a bit. Then it came down. It was at least a reckless play. And maybe worse. And if you think it's not an issue unless it's Matt Cooke, you're right. History counts in the NHL. Cooke has reformed quite a bit in the last two years but he's always going to be Matt Cooke, too.
How quickly things can change. Now it would appear Ottawa is a team that can't possibly stay in the top eight in the East. Teams on the outside right now like Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the Sabres have to be looking at the Sens as a team to catch. The Sabres, of course, have already dropped four points to Ottawa in head-to-head matchups, however.