1. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey -- So much for that bad back. After missing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for the Devils with a reported herniated disc, Kovy looked limber and, well, terrific in his team's 4-3 overtime win Thursday against Philadelphia. Kovalchuk scored a goal and assisted on two others in 22:09 of action. He hit the post on another shot. A GM told me a couple years ago that Kovalchuk's hand speed with a puck on his stick is "as fast as anybody who's ever played." If Kovalchuk does actually have a herniated disc, the quick-fix treatment often involves epidural cortisone injections. We probably won't know until after the playoffs exactly what Kovalchuk did to get back to action so quickly, but whatever it was, it worked.
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles -- Like Kovalchuk, the Kings defenseman put a goal and two assists on the score sheet in L.A's Game 3 Western semifinals win over the suddenly reeling Blues. It might be classified as a soft goal -- his third-period marker from high in the slot between the 5-hole of Brian Elliott -- but so what? It counted, and Doughty was no fluke in his overall performance. Can we start calling Doughty a "playoff performer" now? While he has taken some tough verbal digs over his regular-season play in his career, he's been strong in the postseason. He now has 16 points in 20 career games, a far better point average than his 162 in 316 regular-season games.
3. Andy Greene, New Jersey -- With apologies to Chris Stewart, Mike Richards and a couple others who could have occupied this space, recognition must be given to the type of game Greene played for the Devils in Game 3 against Philly. In 29:14 of ice time, the defenseman was a plus-2 with a game-high five blocked shots and had three shots on goal. Greene, a Miami (Ohio) alum, has been a reasonably steady performer over the years for New Jersey, but he kicked it up a notch Thursday.
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