They are on the spring honours list: Claude Lemieux, John Druce, Chris Kontos, Dave Lowry, Colin Greening ...
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but let it be known that Colin Greening, who was largely unnoticeable during the regular season, is suddenly a very noticeable Ottawa Senator in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And not just for the wicked welt on his left cheek caused by a wayward stick in Game 3. Stitches later closed off what glue kept together long enough to allow Greening to return to the ice and score the overtime goal that defeated the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins.
No Greening backhand into the second overtime, no 2-1 victory and, surely, no chance heading into Game 4 of this second round series Thursday in Ottawa. Instead, the Senators cut the Pittsburgh lead to two games to one and gave themselves at least a chance against Sidney Crosby and the other stars.
Bloodied and triumphant, Greening was front-page news in the Ottawa papers.
“He looked pretty mean at the end of the game,” says friend and teammate Zack Smith. “It’s a good look for him.”
“My Lululemon underwear ad has been cancelled,” Greening jokes.
Perhaps the corporate advertisers haven’t noticed, but Ottawa fans certainly have, as Greening has quickly joined that rather exclusive group of hockey players who get next to no notice in the regular season but demand huge notice come the playoffs.
Chief among the group is Claude Lemieux, winner of four Stanley Cups and the 1995 winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. Like Wiarton Willie, he only came out near the end of winter.
But there are several others: John Druce, eight goals in the regular season with the Washington Capitals, 14 goals in 15 games in the 1991 playoffs; Chris Kontos scoring nine goals in 11 games with the 1989 L.A. Kings while playing on a line with Wayne Gretzky; Dave Lowry, the classic hockey grinder, potting 10 playoff goals for the Florida Panthers in 1996.
Greening is still far from such company, and his Senators may not even move beyond the second round, but his performance has been impressive and noted.
“When you get into the playoffs a lot of the times it’s a big-man’s game,” Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean says.
“And he’s playing like a big man. He’s very determined. I don’t know if that gives him an edge or not.
“The playoffs is a different time of year and a lot of guys make their name in the playoffs [and become] known as playoff performers more than regular-season performers.
“I don’t know if Colin is doing that yet – but we’ll see by the end of the year. He’s certainly stepped up and played very well in the playoffs.”
Greening, a 27-year-old from St. John’s, Nfld., is considered both the Senators’ most-fit player and smartest player: from Upper Canada College he went on to play hockey at Cornell University, where he was the ECAC hockey student-athlete of the year in 2010 as well as chosen to ESPN magazine’s academic all-American first team.
Smart, yet not exactly sure why this has happened.
“It’s hard to explain everything,” he says. “Even in the Montreal series when I didn’t have any goals I still felt like I was playing well and I was contributing the best I could. Now, obviously, two or three goals and you get a little more attention.
“[But] I feel at this time of year that my skating is definitely on. That’s one thing that makes me a better player. If my skating’s on, then everything else falls into place. I don’t really know how to explain it. I want to pride myself on being a player who can perform in the playoffs and right now I feel like I am playing the way I want to play.
“I don’t want to think goals are going to define me, because I don’t think about myself as that kind of player. Goals are nice, though.”
“It’s good to see,” says his friend Smith. “He’s a playoff-type player. He’s one of the best-shape guys I’ve seen, so he’s kind of built for it, too.”
Greening is one of a handful of players from Newfoundland and Labrador and he says his text messages and calls have multiplied since he began finding the net: three goals in his past three games.
“They’re all really happy,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of friends who are Leafs or Habs fans, so I’m trying to get them on the bandwagon.
“It’s great because we are the last Canadian team and it gives them something to cheer for. Good Newfoundlanders, they love their hockey.”
And Ottawa, for the moment, loves its double-overtime hero, a warmth that wasn’t always evident as Greening, who won a Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators in 2011 and had a promising rookie year, did not have a terrific run this shortened regular season.
“Careers can be made, alone, by the Stanley Cup,” MacLean says. “If you’re a playoff player, you can last a long time and you can play on a lot of teams just by being known as a player who plays well in the Stanley Cup.
“You can make a great career for yourself just by being known as a playoff player.”