Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game, or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Columbus Blue Jackets playoff heroes.
Unlikely Columbus Blue Jackets Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
The Jackets don’t have that much playoff history at the moment, but the franchise is trending in the right direction. Many more unlikely Columbus Blue Jackets playoff heroes are in the offing. However, the first one is the American defenceman that became one of their first heroes. Johnson scored five goals and got 33 points in a full season. He was part of a Blue Jackets team that made the playoffs for just the second time.
Matt Calvert scored in overtime of Game 2 in the first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the first post-season victory in team’s history after getting swept by the Detroit Red Wings in their only other series. Johnson forced overtime in that second game and tied for the team’s goal-scoring lead with Boone Jenner. Columbus did fall in six games to Pittsburgh, but the team did made life difficult for the favoured Penguins.
Things have not gone well for Johnson since that series as he’s dealt with financial problems and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He did score a big-money deal with the Penguins, but struggled at times. Many of the team’s defensive problems in the qualifying round loss to the Montreal Canadiens were laid at his feet. Johnson did sign a one-year deal with the New York Rangers in the hopes of rebooting his career.
Before the Moment
The Swede was the 14th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, but he’s struggled to live up to expectations. His best season was 13 goals in the 2016-17 season, but he hasn’t managed double digits before or since. Wennberg came into the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs with just five goals and 22 points in 57 games in the COVID-19 shortened season.
Wennberg almost equaled his goal total in just 10 games between the qualifying and first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a good cap to a forgettable season. The goals and points were the first post-season tallies since the 2017-18 season. He was held scoreless and only played in four games of the 2018-19 playoffs.
His performance wasn’t enough to save his spot on the team, as he was bought on after the season. However, he signed a deal with the Florida Panthers in the off-season. He reunites with new general manager Bill Zito, who worked in the Columbus organization. Wennberg is hoping to rebound and land himself a long-term deal.
Before the Moment
There were many questions about the team’s goaltending after Sergei Bobrovsky headed to Florida. Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins were charged with trying to steady an uncertain crease. Many picked the Blue Jackets to struggle, but the duo played well enough to get them into the qualifying round. Korpisalo has experience in long playoff races as he won the Calder Cup with the AHL Cleveland Monsters in 2016.
The Finnish netminder made a heck of a first impression with a shutout of the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs offence. Korpisalo became the first Blue Jackets goalie to get a post-season shutout. He then bookended the series with another shutout, this time with a series clinching shutout in Game 5. The 26-year-old set the modern record for most saves in a game with 85 in the Game 1 five-overtime loss to Tampa Bay. Columbus lost the series in five to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
Korpisalo had a great first post-season and gives the team hope. Him being an unlikely playoff hero is only based on the length of his NHL tenure. Not many expect a younger player to have two shutouts in a series against one of the better offensive teams in the league. More performances like the most-recent one will take him off this list.