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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Let the Erik Karlsson for Norris campaign begin!

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NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

You know the drill. It was a busy week in the hockey world, and I had some thoughts!

1) Erik Karlsson for Norris 2017

The campaign has begun! Erik Karlsson is making his case for the Norris Trophy and the league’s best defenceman, just when Brent Burns thought he could run away with it this year. Not so fast, Brent!

With 63 points in 69 games so far this season, Karlsson is staying true to form in the offensive category. He currently sits second overall in scoring among defencemen, behind (you guessed it) Brent Burns. But where he’s reached another level in his game this year is his defensive play. Not that he couldn’t play defence before, as many have alluded to, but now analysts, fans and media are finally acknowledging his impact in this area of the game.

Karlsson currently leads the league with 185 blocked shots this season, and he’s well above Calvie de Haan, who sits in second with 168. That garnered him some attention from Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts this week. As Friedman explains, players who typically lead the league in this category don’t produce the kind of offence we see from Karlsson. In fact, the average point total reached by those players is 24, which Karlsson easily reached by December.

We can’t forget this incredible play to stop a breakaway by David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins:

This is not to say that Brent Burns doesn’t deserve the Norris Trophy. He’s having a great season, and is an incredible player. Not to mention, he’s an absolute media darling. He’s funny, gives great sound bites and let’s not forget, has a beard. But Karlsson will be right there in the discussion with Burns.

There’s plenty of hockey to be played before the award is handed out, and anything can happen. One thing is for sure, when it comes time to submit ballots for the Norris, the decision might not be as easy as initially anticipated.

2) Anderson’s Injury

It’s not long term. It’s not long term. It’s not long term. It’s not long term. It’s not long term.... So Craig Anderson is hurt. He sat out on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving starting-goaltender duties to Mike Condon for the second game in a row.

Guy Boucher said that Anderson won’t be out long term, and is listed as day-to-day. He sustained the injury in Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, the same game in which he set a new franchise record for wins by a goalie at 147.

There is no reason to panic with Anderson’s injury. This is more than likely precautionary at this point in the season. The Sens are comfortably in a playoff spot, and are probably thinking ahead to the post-season. In the interest of having their starting goaltender ready for the playoffs, it makes sense to rest him now, when the team isn’t desperately chasing a playoff spot.

Despite allowing 10 goals in his four starts before facing Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Mike Condon has shown throughout the season that he is capable of filling in as the starting goalie this year. Condon has a .914 SV% in 37 games played so far this year. His workload increased a bit for a back-up, when Anderson took time off to be with his wife. He’s proven very effective when called on by the Sens throughout the season. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to do the same thing, for a shorter period of time.

All that being said, getting the news that Anderson was hurt gave me a mild shock earlier this week. I’m fine though, thanks for asking.

3) Big Announcement Coming Tomorrow...

By now, you’ve probably heard that Gary Bettman and the Ottawa Senators are making an announcement on Friday about an outdoor NHL game in Ottawa against the Montreal Canadiens. It certainly doesn’t come as much of a shock, as most of us have been expecting this for a while. Many fans are disappointed that the game won’t be played on Parliament Hill, but TD Place instead. The game will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NHL, and is expected to be played on December 17.

I know many people are sick of the NHL outdoor games, and having so many of them each year does take away some of their prestige. But as a resident of Ottawa, and a fans of the Sens, I’m really looking forward to seeing Ottawa finally get the opportunity to host one.

The Sens have played in one before: The 2014 Heritage Classic against the Vancouver Canucks. But we all know there are certain teams who get to benefit from the outdoor games more than others. To see the city of Ottawa, and the Senators, finally included in this group is a great thing.

If a game is going to have more media attention, hype and promotion, why not make it against the Habs? With all due respect to the Canucks, it’s not like they have a heated rivalry with the Sens. But the Habs? That’s a different story.

4) Rivalries

Speaking of rivalries, there has been a lot of talk recently about the potential for a Sens vs. Leafs first-round playoff match-up. Combined with the three games in eight days against the Canadiens this week, I started thinking about the Sens biggest rivals.

Of course, we all know about the Battle of Ontario. No I’m not talking about the podcast (shout out!). We remember those painful playoff loses, which I’m not getting into here, and years of hatred between these two teams. But this rivalry has kind of fizzled out in recent years. There are kids turning 16 this year who weren’t even born that last time these two teams faced each other in the playoffs. This rivalry needs a bit of a jumpstart, to say the least. It might get that this year.

While the Sens/Leafs rivalry was slowly fading, a new one started to develop to the East of Ottawa, with the Montreal Canadiens. Two playoff tilts between the Sens and Canadiens in the span of three years would be enough to create a little bit of heat between any teams. But these were not your average playoff match-ups.

Game three of their first meeting in 2013 saw the Sens win 6-1, Jean-Gabriel Pageau get his first career hat trick (and lose a tooth), and Paul MacLean be very “disrespectful” towards the Canadiens by calling a time out when he team was already up 6-1.

Their second meeting came in 2015, after the Hamburglar run. Despite entering the playoffs on a high note, the Sens fell into some bad luck against the Habs. Mark Stone suffered a broken wrist off of a P.K. Subban slash, which wasn’t worth any form of discipline. We all remember the early whistle that prevented Pageau from scoring a game-tying goal that would have potentially saved the Sens’ season.

This rivalry is so new and fresh, it’s hard to forget some of the moments that built it during those playoff match-ups. Is it fair to say that the Sens/Habs rivalry is stronger than that between the Sens and Leafs?

Personally, I will always view the Battle of Ontario as the biggest rivalry that Ottawa is involved in, but I can certainly understand those who view the Montreal at that level now.

Where do you stand? As a Sens fan, which team do you dislike losing to more: Montreal or Toronto?

5) U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team

The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team (USWNT) dropped some heavy news on Wednesday. In a statement, the team said that they are prepared to boycott the IIHF World Championships this month until “significant progress is made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.”

Given that this year’s tournament is taking place on U.S. soil (in Plymouth, Michigan), this is a pretty strong stand to take. An international tournament without a Canada/USA game just won’t hold the same value.

Players have been fighting for fair wages and support from USA Hockey for years; this dates back to before the 1998 Nagano Olympics. There are speculations that Cammi Granato, Hall-of-Fame former player for Team USA, was cut because of her adamant support for this cause. The Women’s National Soccer team went through something similar just a few years ago. Basically, it’s 2017 and women’s sports generate enough interest to warrant more support than they typically receive.

You can get a complete rundown of what’s happened so far through The Ice Garden, or read more about USA Hockey’s response through Yahoo. There has been much back and forth since the announcement on Wednesday, with both sides standing firmly in their place. Here’s a very quick summary of what you need to know:

  • USWNT says they are given 1,000 per month for six months leading up to the Olympics, then nothing for other three and a half years.
  • USA Hockey says they contribute a total of potentially $85,000 to players around the Olympics.
  • Basically all of the players involved have said this is not true, and USA Hockey is including the money that the team gets from the U.S. Olympic Committee in this estimate.
  • USA Hockey contributes over $3.5 million to growing boy’s hockey, but no such funds are given to growing girl’s hockey.
  • USA Hockey gave the USWNT a deadline of 5 pm on Thursday to decide if they are boycotting, and the USWNT said “We see your deadline. We’re staying right here.”

There is a lot more to it than that, and I highly recommend you read some of the links above, but as of right now, the players we know and love for Team USA will not suit up for the Worlds later this month.

USA Hockey has said they will ice a team using U22 and U18 players if they have to, but I’ve heard that those players have already said they will not participate. Not to mention, talk about putting young players in an impossible position. They would have to choose between living out their dreams, and fighting for what’s best for the sport.

I think the USWNT is doing the right thing by standing up for fair wages and support. The fact that they even have to at this point is pretty sad, given the popularity of women’s hockey in the U.S. and how much money the country typically contributes to amateur sport. One need look no further than the 2014 Sochi Gold Medal game, or the growing success of the NWHL and CWHL to see that there is value in women’s hockey. Players should be supported in a way that reflects that.

Team Canada fought for similar support before the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Unfortunately, we are still in a situation where this needs to happen. These women are fighting for what’s right, and are going to help make changes that will benefit players in the future. I stand by them, I support them, and for the first time in my life, I am cheering for the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team!