Nathan Beaulieu (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Remember the huge hit that Ottawa's Erik Karlsson laid on Montreal's Nathan Beaulieu in the first round? Beaulieu didn't return until Game 5 of the second round because the hit from Karlsson fractured Beaulieu's sternum. Contrary to what some believed, Beaulieu says he did not suffer a concussion and the tinted visor he wore in practice was just a trick.
Before Washington's Brooks Orpik delivered his thundering check to New York's Dan Boyle in Game 7 of the series between the Capitals and Rangers, the biggest hit of the post-season belonged to Ottawa's fleet-footed defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson isn't exactly known as the most devastating hitter in hockey and hasn't often been confused with Scott Stevens, but in the first round Karlsson absolutely blasted Montreal Canadiens blueliner Nathan Beaulieu with an open-ice check that put Beaulieu out of the series and into the second round. It wasn't until Game 5 of the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning when Beaulieu returned to the Habs' lineup.
In Game 6, the Lightning eliminated the Canadiens, with Beaulieu skating just 13:15 in the contest, far from the nearly 16 minutes he averaged in the regular season. But once the Canadiens revealed the list of injuries players were dealing with, things started to make a bit more sense: Karlsson's hit broke Beaulieu's sternum and he was playing through it.
"I fractured my sternum, my sternum bone; pretty painful but I made a full recovery and it was a lot faster than we thought it was, so I was pretty fortunate," Beaulieu said Thursday in exit interviews.
If you haven't seen the hit, take a look:
Slowed down that looks like it hurt. There's no way Beaulieu wasn't feeling ill effects as soon as he got to the bench.
Most thought that Beaulieu had been sidelined by a concussion, especially seeing as the follow-through of the hit seemed to catch the Canadiens blueliner in the head. During his few times on ice between the injury and returning to the ice, he had worn a tinted visor, usually the hallmark of a player sensitive to light. That was just Beaulieu putting on for the media, he said.
"Yeah, it was a trick," said Beaulieu. "There was no concussion at all, so I was fortunate."
In the post-season, Beaulieu managed one assist in five games. Over the course of the regular season, he notched one goal and nine points in 64 games, skating an average of 15:41 per game. It was his first full season with Montreal after two years splitting time between the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs and the Canadiens.