Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at David Savard's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Oct. 22, 1990
Height/Weight: 6-2, 229
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 82 GP, 8-16-24, 6.2 PS
Contract: Signed through 2020-21
David Savard has been called a lot of things during his NHL career.
"Sniper" probably hadn't been one of them until late in the 2018-19 season.
Savard turned heads as much for his offensive ability as his steady, physical defensive play during the final stretch of the campaign. The bearded defenseman, who looks like a rugged throwback with his bushy beard and thick frame, tallied four times in an eight-game stretch of March to help push the Blue Jackets into the postseason with a sudden offensive push.
But while that cluster of goals jumped out, it wasn't totally out of character for a player who has always shown some offensive ability. In juniors, Savard's game showed offensive upside, as he totaled 77 points in 64 games his final season in the QMJHL with Moncton. Then, in his first pro season with AHL Springfield, Savard had an 11-32-43 line, and in his second season with the Jackets in 2014-15, he had 11 goals and 36 points.
But it turned out that defense would be his calling card to stay in the NHL, so Savard's game matured from that of a two-way threat to more of a defensive role. Still, it sure was fun for both Blue Jackets fans and Savard to see his confidence on offense blossom as this past campaign went on.
"I was mostly an offensive defenseman, but I always played well defensively, though," Savard said of his junior career. "That was my main goal, but I always had that (offensive) role. Power play and stuff like that, coaches would put you in a chance to score and create some offense.
"Your role changes through the years. My game had to change too since becoming a pro -- becoming more physical, becoming a bigger guy. That's how I found my way to stay in the league, and if I can bring some offense, I'll try to do it."
Still, Savard has 40 career goals with the Blue Jackets, second all-time among CBJ defenseman and one behind Rostislav Klesla for the team record. That's one ahead of teammate Seth Jones and two ahead of Zach Werenski.
Entering the season: Savard was penciled in to be a regular defenseman yet again for the Blue Jackets, a job he's held since the 2013-14 season when he first played 70 games for the CBJ. The blueliner has become a model of consistency for the team and was expected to log heavy minutes again on either the second or third pair.
What happened: The Blue Jackets leaned heavily on Savard at the start, as he was averaging more than 24 minutes per game over the first seven contests with Seth Jones out.
Upon Jones' return, Savard settled back into what could be described as a second pair and penalty-killing role, but with a twist this season. For much of the year, he played with Zach Werenski, whose pairing with Seth Jones was split up as Ryan Murray instead played much of the year with big No. 3.
No matter who Savard played with, though, he just tried to play his game and, after some midseason ups and downs, became more and more confident as the season went on. That ended up manifesting itself on the offensive end with his goal-scoring run at the end of the year, which extended into the playoffs as well as Savard scored in the opening win vs. Tampa Bay.
By the end of the year, he was again a key part of the defensive rotation, especially as injuries to Murray, Adam McQuaid and Markus Nutivaara racked up. Savard averaged 19:45 of ice time per game this season, but that number jumped to 21:34 over the last 13 regular-season games and then 23:42 in the postseason.
His eight goals turned out to be the most he scored since he had 11 in 2014-15, and his 24 points also was a high-water mark since he had 25 during the 2015-16 season. In addition, he was plus-19 on the year, second among CBJ defensemen after Murray's plus-20 mark.
Could it be anything else? Given his late-season scoring streak, Savard had some nice tallies throughout down the stretch, but none resonated quite like his goal in Game 1 of the playoffs vs. Tampa Bay. With the Jackets down 3-1 in the third period, he entered the zone with speed, deked around former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Victor Hedman, and quickly fired a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. It kicked off a stretch of three goals in just over six minutes as the Jackets came back to earn the 4-3 win that led to the team's first-round sweep of the Lightning.
Video: CBJ@TBL, Gm1: Savard tallies after nice moves on rush
By the Numbers
5: Savard finished plus-5 in a Nov. 15 win vs. Florida, tying a career high and marking just the fourth time in Blue Jackets history a defenseman finished a game at plus-5.
54: Savard is a combined plus-54 over the past three seasons, and this year, according to Hockey Reference, his expected goal differential at even strength was plus-10.8.
123: With 123 blocked shots on the season, Savard led the Blue Jackets in that category for the second straight season.