In first appearance in the NHL playoffs, Zach Werenski scored a beautiful goal, had 14 shots on goal and played more than 25 minutes in each of his first two postseason contests.
Of course, that's not what the 19-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets budding star will be remembered for.
Werenski took a puck to the face in the second period of Game 3, which dropped the young defenseman to the ice with blood dripping to the playing surface. He skated off but later returned to action, the type of warrior performance that earns a player fans for life in a city – not to mention a T-shirt that commemorates the heroics.
Unfortunately for Werenski, his eye swelled shut by the end of the Game 3 loss, keeping him off the ice for overtime. And when it was found he suffered a broken orbital bone, he had to miss Games 4 and 5, too, providing a sudden end to his impressive rookie season.
Looking back, Werenski had a lot of good things to say about his first playoff experience in the NHL, writing today in a piece on BlueJackets.com.
My first experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was quite the ride. It was cut too short, for me and for the team, but it was everything I ever imagined.
When we pulled up to the arena in Pittsburgh, there were a lot of fans waiting for us to show up. The city was just packed with people wearing Penguins jerseys. From that point on, you could tell it was different. You could tell it was playoff hockey.
Werenski also reflected on what it felt like when he was hit by the puck, which deflected off of his stick after being shot by Pittsburgh's Phil Kessel.
I remember the puck hitting my stick and the next thing I knew I was just down. I didn't know what was happening. I couldn't see anything. Once I regained my vision, all I saw was blood. I started to panic and skated off as quickly as I could.
For the whole piece, including Werenski's thoughts on playing in front of the CBJ faithful throughout the season and in the playoffs, visit BlueJackets.com.