It’s never easy for a player to jump right into the speed and intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs after sitting out for a prolonged length of time, but that’s what defenseman John Erskine had to do Thursday night.
After playing only one game since Jan. 31, Erskine was reinserted in the lineup for Game 4 as the Capitals looked for a little more grit on the blueline to help clear Boston forwards out of the crease.
While he had an uneven start – and was victimized when he was left as the lone man back on a two-on-one that Rich Peverley scored on – Erskine’s performance steadily improved and his presence was a helpful one in Washington’s 2-1 win over the Bruins.
“I felt pretty good. Took me two shifts to get into it. But as the game went on and the more I played I felt better,” Erskine said. “I think when I first got out there it’s tough to get the timing right. Like I missed two months, but by the third period I felt good and wanted to throw the body around.”
Erskine finished the game with 11 minutes 2 seconds of ice time, one shot on goal and three hits. There were also a few occurrences where Erskine could be seen discouraging any extracurricular activities from the Bruins when the play stopped near Braden Holtby.
After the game, the rookie netminder was appreciative to have the rugged defenseman keeping the area around his net free of Boston players.
“That was big tonight. They didn’t start much after the whistles or during the place,” Holtby said. “It’s nice to have a guy like Erskine back in the lineup; he hasn’t played for a while and comes with that physical edge that when guys come to the net. They’re not messing around with Ersky.”
Whether Erskine played well enough to earn himself a spot in the lineup for Game 5 on Saturday afternoon in Boston remains to be seen, though don’t be surprised to see him in the mix once again.
“I thought Johnny played hard. He had some big hits. Really good defensively,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “In front of his net, he played a lot of pucks. And for being out for two months, he looked like he played last game. So it’s a credit to him.”
Below is a video of one of Erskine’s three hits, this one on David Krejci came with 4:28 remaining in the third period. (s/t Japers’ Rink)