It was a matter of ‘Pop, there goes the playoffs’ for Dylan DeMelo.
The Winnipeg Jets defenceman was injured on his first shift of Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens, on a play he maintains has occurred countless times before in his NHL career.
But it sidelined him for the remainder of the series, a four-game sweep by the Habs.
“It was a low-grade strain/pull of the groin. Yeah, I mean it sucked, for sure. I was personally crushed,” DeMelo said Wednesday morning, during the Jets’ final media availability of the season. “I was hoping that maybe Game 6 or 7 there might be a chance to come back — and that probably would have been pushing it, to be honest. It’s a minimum two- or three-week injury.
“I went down the wall with (Brendan) Gallagher. I don’t know how many times I’ve come down on a pinch and I get out and it’s no problem. It was just crap luck, to be honest, and we just caught skate to skate and I got super extended and I felt it pop and I knew right away because I couldn’t skate.”
While playing through pain comes with the territory during the chase for the Stanley Cup, that wasn’t an option for the 28-year-old from London, Ont., who admitted he struggled mightily with being on the outside looking in.
“Obviously, the most important time of the year and the most exciting time of the year and just building off the high of that first round (sweep of the Edmonton Oilers),” said DeMelo. “Even my game, personally, that was some of the best hockey I’ve ever played in my life and you want to carry that momentum, you want to help the team, and it sucked for sure.
“Selfishly, I’d like to think I could have had an impact on that series and helped us out, and was really crushed and disappointed that it happened so early.”
He wasn’t the only member of Winnipeg’s walking wounded.
Dynamic forward Nikolaj Ehlers didn’t put up big numbers but was one of the club’s most consistent performers in six playoff games, however, he revealed that he was dealing with a posterior labrum tear (shoulder) and rib cartilage fracture.
He missed the final nine regular-season contests and also games 1 and 2 of the opening-round series in Edmonton, returning to fire the overtime winner in Game 3 at Bell MTS Place.
Ehlers, who had just one assist against Montreal, didn’t use health as an excuse.
“I was 100 per cent, let’s put it that way,” he said.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler said his top priority this summer is to get healthy but declined to give details on the injury or injuries he’s dealing with. He said he has a number of things to get looked and that it’s too early to say if they could potentially keep him out of training camp in the fall.
Veteran forward Paul Stastny was also playing hurt, missing the first two games of the Montreal series. He wouldn’t offer specifics, only to say it was something that he’d been dealing with during the year which flared up after a first-round sweep of Edmonton.
Meanwhile, many observers theorized Pierre-Luc Dubois’ lacklustre play might have been owing to an injury. But the Quebec product, who turns 23 later this month, shot that down entirely, taking responsibility for his poor performance down the stretch and into the post-season.
“No, I’m not hurt. I mean I’m as hurt as anybody, bruises and scratches and stuff like that. Nothing major that affected my game,” he said. “In the playoffs, I’m someone who expects a lot from myself. I’ll be the first guy to say I didn’t play how I should have. I didn’t play how I thought I could and how I know I can. It was a disappointing year for me, it was a lot of ups and downs. The only person to blame is me.
“This summer is going to be a big important summer to get ready for next season, next training camp.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
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