Let’s start with Brandon Saad, who was on fire Tuesday night. In the 9 playoff games Brandon Saad has played for the Colorado Avalanche, he’s scored 7 goals, which is almost half of his entire 2020-21 season. They say experience matters in the playoffs, and two Stanley Cups would qualify. He was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks (again) this past off season for Nikita Zadorov, which probably has a few Blackhawks fans shaking their heads. But not all of them. Arguably the glory days of Saad in Chicago was with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Now, Saad has a leading cast again in Colorado. He can wait in the wings (literally) and essentially be the recipient of his line mates’ efforts. He’s also behind one of the top lines in the NHL, and their third line is ranked 7th. In his last stint with Chicago, he wasn’t a force, and got pushed out of a second line spot by Dominik Kubalik. His season goal tallies have declined since his first year with the Blue Jackets in 2015-2016. However, the current playoffs prove he’s still got it.
His opponent on his fourth season with the artificially-constructed Vegas Golden Knights, William Karlsson is no longer a stranger to post-season play (with 64 playoff games total). In the 12 playoffs games this season, he’s logged 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, with a +/- of 6. This is not surprising, after finishing the season with 14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points, and +/- of 19. His second line of Jonathan Marchessault (we hardly knew ye, JAM) on the left and Reilly Smith on the right ranks #3, and was called the identity of the franchise by Coach Peter DeBoer. His play is strong and consistent. Could this be Wild Bill’s year to reach the finals? Is he even still called that?
The Winnipeg Jets just got swept by the Montreal Canadiens, and Pierre-Luc Dubois was essentially invisible, except if you looked in the penalty box. He never scored despite getting the lime light after the Jets’ other centers Mark Scheifele and Paul Stastny were suspended or injured, respectively. An NHL network panel called him floating around and unengaged. Is this the sequelae of an unusual year with more than one injury and new teammates? Last year, he dominated with the Blue Jackets in the playoffs with 10 points in 10 games. Outlier or portension of ongoing mediocrity? Time will tell.
However, his opponent on the Canadiens, Josh Anderson, is now onto Round 3 for the first time in his career after a stellar first (2/3 of the) season up north. Although he entered the playoffs on an 11-game point drought, one could argue his season tally of 17 goals, 7 assists, and hard-hitting presence played a large role getting them there. He only has 1 goal and 1 point in 11 playoff games, but he came out swinging in Game 1, living up to his new nickname Powerhorse. He also lacks playoff experience. However, he has 6 more seasons under contract with a 5.5 million average annual value, the success of which hinges largely on Anderson’s ability to stay healthy.
Although harsh words befell David Savard for his decline in play with the Blue Jackets (sans Jody Shelley), he too is laughing all the way to the proverbial bank after the Tampa Bay Lighting finished off the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. After 8 games, his current +/- is -2, which is way up from -27 this season. However, he’s been injured as of late, with his time on ice plunging to 10:42 and 13:32 in his return for the last two games. His third defensive pairing with Mikhail Sergachev ranks #4.
No collective former Blue Jackets article is complete without covering Sergei Bobrovsky, whose Florida Panthers finished second in the central division and fourth overall, garnering former Blue Jackets Assistant GM Bill Zito with GM-of-the-Year accolades. Bobrovsky has proven playoff ruination, and this post-season may have been the worst. Despite rediscovering some footing this season, Bobrovsky was placed on back-up duty to Chris Driedger after falling 0-2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was pulled again in Game 4 after allowing 5 goals on 14 shots. He was scratched for Games 5 and 6 (no starter duty, no back-up, nothing), allowing Spencer Knight to shine and force Florida management to confront scenarios and solutions to his 7 year, 70-million-dollar contract. He finished the playoffs with a horrible 0.841 SV% and 5.31 GAA. Perhaps sending him to the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a first-round draft pick and more might mitigate his 10 million cap hit to Florida, giving them the breathing space (and money) to continue as contenders. Either way, this partnership should is over.
What former Blue Jacket has surprised or impressed you the most this post-season?