It was a poorly-kept secret Ilya Kovalchuk was playing through pain in the Stanley Cup finals. He didn’t look like the dynamic offensive powerhouse he was in the first three rounds and having to deal with the physically punishing Kings made matters worse.
Today, Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed what everyone believed to be true in that Kovalchuk was playing through a back injury. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports DeBoer saying Kovalchuk’s back was in such rough shape he was playing “well below 100 percent.”
Kovalchuk had just one goal, an empty-netter in Game 4, during the finals but finished the postseason tied for the playoff lead in goals scored with eight and third in points with 19, one behind both Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. While that offense all came in the first three rounds for Kovalchuk, you wonder how differently things would’ve turned out if he was fully healthy. Kovalchuk finished fifth in the NHL in points this season.