NHL·Analysis

Matt Duchene finally putting it all together for Stanley Cup push

Life for Columbus' Matt Duchene has been full of twists and turns in the past 30-plus months. But the 28-year-old from Haliburton, Ont., is putting a stamp on this year's Stanley Cup playoffs — one that could lead the Blue Jackets to glory and land the forward a big payday this off-season.

Haliburton, Ont., native having best season of his decade-long career

Blue Jackets centre Matt Duchene, bottom, who evened the team's second-round NHL playoff series at 1-1 against the Boston Bruins in overtime over the weekend, has been one of Columbus' best players during these Stanley Cup playoffs. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

Shortly after the clock struck midnight and Saturday turned to Sunday, the Columbus Blue Jackets' playoff fortunes turned into more riches, thanks to centre Matt Duchene.

Life for the 28-year-old from Haliburton, Ont., has been full of twists and turns in the past 30-plus months. His latest exploits sent good vibrations throughout the rising Blue Jackets organization with a rebound goal on the power play to give his club a 3-2 victory early in double overtime to tie the second-round NHL series against the Boston Bruins at 1-1.

It was not only Duchene's first career Stanley Cup playoff OT goal in his decade in the NHL, but it was also his first post-season game winner. It was just another chapter in his up-and-down world.

There is no doubting his talents. Duchene did all he could as an 18-year-old in junior hockey, leading the Brampton Battalion to the 2008-09 Ontario Hockey League final, only to fall in the championship series to Taylor Hall and the mighty Windsor Spitfires.

The Colorado Avalanche liked what they saw by drafting him third overall in 2009 after the New York Islanders chose John Tavares and the Tampa Bay Lightning took Victor Hedman.
Duchene has produced plenty of goals and points in his 10 seasons. Only Tavares has scored more and put up more points from members of the 2009 draft class.

Quick playoff exits with Avs

But even though Duchene has enjoyed plenty of international success for Canada with eight gold medals as a junior and senior — including an incredible four-year run of titles at the 2012 Spengler Cup, 2014 Olympics, 2015 and 2016 world championships as well as the 2016 World Cup — there was nothing to celebrate in terms of Stanley Cup playoff success.

He made two trips to the post-season with the Avalanche, both resulting in first-round exits. The San Jose Sharks dispatched Colorado in six games in his rookie year. A knee injury kept him out of action in 2014 until the final two outings of a seven-game heartbreaker in which the Avalanche lost in overtime to the Minnesota Wild.

WATCH | Matt Duchene vaults Blue Jackets over Bruins in double OT:

Game Wrap: Matt Duchene vaults Blue Jackets over Bruins in double OT

3 years ago
Duration 2:16
Matt Duchene scored on a power play at 3:42 of the second overtime to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, tying their second round series 1-1.

Lack of playoff success

The Avalanche's lack of playoff success was part of the reason Duchene asked for a trade from Colorado in the summer of 2017. But his request wasn't acted on until early November of that season when he was moved to the Ottawa Senators.

He joined a team that came within one shot of advancing to the 2017 Stanley Cup final. But Duchene, who arrived the following season, didn't have much of an impact. He struggled with his new team and the Senators missed the playoffs.

This season, the losses continued to pile up for the sad-sack Senators even though Duchene was having his best season. Then controversy struck after he was front and centre in last fall when an Uber driver in the Phoenix-area recorded a conversation between Duchene and six of his teammates in which they trashed assistant coach Martin Raymond about the team's poor power-play and penalty-killing units.

Found groove ahead of playoffs

On Jan. 9, Duchene became a father for the first time when his girlfriend Ashley gave birth to a son, Beau. Life was good for the happy couple. But his future with the Senators was clouded. Duchene was, and still is, eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Ottawa failed to get him signed before the trade deadline (if you were a world-class player would you want to remain in the soap-opera situation in Ottawa?), and dealt him to the Blue Jackets.

Once again he started slowly in Columbus with only one goal in his first 10 games. But Duchene found his groove enough to finish the season with a career-high 31 goals and career-tying 70 points in his 73 games split between Ottawa and Columbus.

The playoffs have gone well for Duchene. He enjoyed a massive four-point outing in Game 2 of the Blue Jackets surprising sweep over the Lightning. He also scored in each of the last three games in the first-round series.

Now he is an overtime hero and the hockey world waits to see what's in store for the remainder of the playoffs for Duchene, and where he ends up when the clock turns to free agency in two months.

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