Ottawa is out of the playoffs and he’s hurting, but St. John’s native has reason to be pleased
In this April 22, 2013 file photo, Ottawa Senators’ forward Colin Greening (14) battles with Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenceman Deryk Engelland in front of Penguins’ goaltender Tomas Vokoum (92) during NHL hockey action in Ottawa. Greening had three goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, all three coming in the Senators’ second-round playoff loss to the Penguins. — Canadian Press file photo
Colin Greening is stiff and sore these days, black and blue from cheek to toe. Still, he wishes the aches and pain were lasting a bit longer.
“Playoff hockey,” the Ottawa Senators forward said Sunday, “is a lot of treatment and ice bags.”
Unfortunately for Greening and the surprising Sens, they won’t have to worry about trips to the therapy clinic or ice bags for a while after Ottawa was bounced from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Friday night with a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who took the series in five games.
Not that Greening is a newcomer to playoff hockey — he appeared in seven NHL post-season games last season, and won an AHL championship with Binghamton in 2011 — but the big winger from St. John’s got another lesson on what the post season is all about when he took a stick to his face in Game 3 against the Pens, enough force that doctors had to remove some fibreglass from his cheek before stitching him up.
“Hockey fans may not know this, but the first round, especially, has so much energy,” Greening said. “People are just back from injuries, everyone’s excited to start the playoffs, the energy and intensity is very high, and it takes a toll on the body.
“And the farther you go (in the playoffs), the more banged up you are. Some of the best plays aren’t the goals, but a big hit or a blocked shot. It’s stuff that may not look the prettiest, and it hurts a lot, but you have to do it.”
After a 17-goal rookie campaign last year, Greening trailed off this season, managing only eight goals and 19 points in 47 games. Perhaps that can be blamed on the lockout, but Greening turned a few heads in the playoffs, scoring three times — including the game-winner in double overtime in Game 3 — with an assist in 10 games while using his 6-2, 220-pound frame effectively in the corners and in front of the net.
Greening, in fact, was drawing some comparisons to proven playoff performer and four-time Stanley Cup winner Claude Lemieux for his post-season work.
“When you get into the playoffs, “a lot of times it’s a big man’s game,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said following Game 3.
“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 he’s stepped up and played very well in the playoffs. You can make a great career for yourself by being known as a playoff performer.”
“From my perspective, I felt I elevated my game,” Greening said. “It’s what I wanted to do, what I had to do.
“Playoff hockey is what matters the most.”
One year left in his contract
Greening’s timing is right on, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent when his current deal, which will pay him $950,000 next season, expires.
As for this year, however, Greening said the sting of losing to the Penguins, not to mention being thumped in Games 4 and 5, is still too fresh to even consider pondering the bright side, one that saw Ottawa grab the seventh seed in the East after losing two of their top players — Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson — to injury for lengthy periods of time.
“It’s hard to look at any positives right now,” he said. “It will take some time before I can reflect on that.
“That said, I’m very proud of the team given the circumstances we were under. There was a time there when we were not in any way assured of a playoff spot and yet we meet a top team (the second-seeded Montreal Canadiens in Round 1) and beat them.
“We can take some good from that, but right now it still hurts too much.”
Greening will remain in Ottawa for the next month or so before he heads to his off-season retreat in Chicago for a couple of months. He plans to get back to St. John’s for five or six days when one of the top items on the agenda will be organizing his brother’s bachelor party.