Matt Duchene finally putting it all together for Stanley Cup push
Haliburton, Ont., native having best season of his decade-long career
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.
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:
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.
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
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.