If it wasn’t for former New Jersey Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya scoring the tying goal which sent Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals into a grueling three periods of overtime, everyone would have gotten a lot more sleep Wednesday night, especially the Boston Bruins.
Oduya’s third period goal for the Chicago Blackhawks knotted the score at three and set the stage for an additional three periods of intense playoff hockey. If that was the first match-up between these two teams, can you imagine what the rest of the series is going to entail?
For Oduya, it was his third goal of the post season and probably one of the biggest goals of his career. The 31-year-old Swede was originally a draft pick of the Washington Capitals in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He never really made an impression on the Capitals’ organization and spent most of his time playing in leagues in his native country.
His older brother Fredrik was also drafted by an NHL club, the San Jose Sharks, but he never made it to the big leagues, spending most of his ice time in the minors and in Europe. He hung up his skates in 2007 and died an untimely death in the summer of 2011 in a motorcycle accident in Austria.
Prior to the 2006-07 season, Oduya was signed as a free agent by the Devils. Most ear-marked him for the minors. However, the injury bug gave him the opportunity to crack the Devils’ lineup, and he never looked back. Oduya became a steady defenseman for the club, but never really experienced postseason success with the Devils. Their last Stanley Cup win was in 2003, well before his time with the team. During his years on the Devils, the club made the playoffs each season, but they only made it past the first round once. In the 2007 playoffs, the Devils lost in the second round to the Ottawa Senators.
On Feb. 4, 2012, Oduya was a part of the trade to the then-Atlanta Thrashers, which brought Russian top gun Ilya Kovlachuk to the Garden State. Oduya’s time with the Devils was done, and fans remember him as a solid blueliner who wore the uniform with pride.
He would spend close to three seasons with the Thrashers, moving with them to Winnipeg in 2011. However, midway through the 2011-12 campaign, Oduya was traded to the Blackhawks for second- and third-round picks in this summer’s draft, which will take place in New Jersey at the Prudential Center on June 30.
In 18 games with the Blackhawks last year, Oduya scored one goal and notched four assists. When the lockout hit this year, Oduya headed to Thailand, of all places, to try and stay sharp, playing in the “Land of Smiles” tournament. His play was the key element to bringing Bangkok its first ever title.
This season, Oduya scored three goals and registered nine assists in 48 games. In the Blackhawks’ march to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, Oduya has three goals and three assists thus far.
His last was perhaps the biggest. Not bad for the guy who most people thought was going to be a minor league player at best.