Matt Duchene is flying high right now.
Not only was he an impact player for the Blue Jackets in their historic four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he's getting to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs (legitimately) for the first time in his career.
Duchene had three goals and seven points in the Blue Jackets' dismantling of the Lightning, scoring huge goals in Game 2 and table-setting for two different lines en route to a franchise first for Columbus. During a Thursday appearance on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio, Duchene was asked about the series win over Tampa Bay and how it felt to be part of a playoff series win for the first time.
"For me, it'd been a long, long time to actually feel like I was in a series. It was long overdue, for sure, and really exciting," Duchene said. He added that it was the first full playoff series he'd played in since his rookie season with Colorado, 10 years ago.
And, as Duchene noted, the Blue Jackets' first-round success was in part fueled by their stretch drive just to get into the tournament. Their post-trade deadline inconsistency led to a 7-1-0 run to close out the regular season, and then (as we all know) four straight wins over the Lightning.
"Things don't go on the ice how they look on paper sometimes, and I think that was a big part of it, in terms of getting acquainted with each other and (building) that chemistry mid-season," Duchene said of the Blue Jackets' struggles in early March. "I think guys were gripping the stick a bit too tight, weren't letting it flow...and we had some hiccups. But at the same time, we did what we needed to do to get in the to the playoffs.
"The best thing that happened to us was that 3-0 deficit in Game 1 in the first period, because we completely let go of everything we'd been holding on to mentally."
The Blue Jackets now await the winner of the Toronto–Boston series, which is in a 2-2 tie headed to Game 5 in Boston this weekend. And beyond that, Duchene (who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1), is focused solely on their next opponent – leaving the business element for when it needs resolved.
"It's the last thing on my mind, truthfully," Duchene said of his pending UFA status. "I'm just so thrilled to be part of this team right now and be in this playoff run. I know all of that stuff will take care of itself. I can't say enough good things so far about my experience here in Columbus, and I can't wait to start Round 2."