It's nothing short of astounding when the "three stars" of the Columbus Blue Jackets' most recent win, a 7-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, are Dean Kukan, Jean-Francois Berube, and Brendan Gaunce.
The most dominant player on the ice, though, was Patrik Laine, who has been on a tear, scoring 10-8-18 in his current nine-game point streak. On the season, he has 16-17-33 in just 30 games.
That's quite the dichotomy, no?
Berube, who was, at best, the organization's #4 goalie when the season began, is the definition of an unsung hero. The 30-year old journeyman played - and won - his first NHL start since 2017-18 when he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, he's toiled in the AHL for four different franchises.
Kukan, a 28-year old pending UFA, may or may not be in the organization's future. But games like Sunday night can remind fans of what made him an intriguing player when the Blue Jackets brought the undrafted Swiss defenseman into the organization in 2015-16.
What's Kukan, good lookin'? pic.twitter.com/3fc3hijR7U— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 20, 2022
Then there's Gaunce, who is emphatically making the most of his opportunity with the Blue Jackets. The 27-year old pending UFA has 2-2-4 in just six games, but Sunday night's game was his best game of the six. That's saying something when considering he only played 7:41, lower than any skater other than Justin Danforth (6:59).
GOING!— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 21, 2022
Finally, there's Laine, the big-ticket, blue-chip 23-year old who is suddenly second on the club in goals behind only Boone Jenner (21) despite having played 19 fewer games. If last season was a season to forget for Laine (and frankly most of the Blue Jackets), this is a year to remember. He posted 0-2-2 in the win and had a goal taken off the board for offsides.
While the Blue Jackets are clearly pleased with this type of run from Laine, it's more or less what they expected. Don't get me wrong, it's fun when star players play like stars. But it's the surprising performances from unsung players like Berube, Kukan, and Gaunce that are the pleasant surprises that make nights like Sunday all the more enjoyable.