Jake Guentzel served as Phil Kessel’s stick boy when Kessel attended the University of Minnesota. Guentzel’s father was an assistant coach for the Golden Gophers at the time, and the pre-teen Guentzel inevitably hung around the rink. Thus, during games, Guentzel was responsible for getting Kessel a new stick during games when one snapped.
Could handling Kessel’s sticks have infected Guentzel with the mutant ability to score crucial goals in the crunch just like his hero Kessel?
Whatever the case, Guentzel has cranked back up the goal scoring tear that catapulted him into the NHL playoff goal scoring lead. Though goalless during the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa, he has returned to clutch form.
In Game 1, he broke a string of three unanswered Nashville goals and torched Pekka Rinne for the game-winner. In Game 2, late in the first period, he found a crease in Rinne’s pads to dribble in the tying goal. Ten seconds into the third period, Guentzel wired a rebound from a Bryan Rust shot to break the 1-1 deadlock and crumble the floodgates. Pittsburgh scored three goals during the span of 3:28, and coasted to a 4-1 victory.
Guentzel finds the back of the net at pivotal moments. And what’s more valuable in the meat grinder NHL postseason than dependable scoring?
If the Penguins do go on to win the Cup (and that’s no sure thing since they’re only 2 games in) and Guentzel continues to perform as a game breaker, the league might not have any other choice but to select the 22 year-old rookie who emerged during the second half of the season, though no expert would have predicted it.
In my previous post, I wrote that the Pens needed iconic moments from the unknown players if they were going to take the Stanley Cup. Guentzel has provided the kind of boon that not only gets recognized in the national papers but also by the award-givers.
He’s got 12 goals and 19 points. His point total now stands as the new NHL playoff record for points by an American-born rookie.
If the Penguins triumph, could Guentzel skate away with the Conn Smythe? It’s an ancillary question at this point, since Guentzel and the team would be content to merely raise the Stanley Cup.
However, he is producing at a Conn Smythe pace, and if the Penguins are to perform a root canal on the Predators and snatch a Stanley Cup from Nashville’s jaws, they’ll need Guentzel keep wielding his lethal stick.
Looks like Phil Kessel’s stick boy is making a name for himself, and Guentzel’s coming-of-age is ripening at a historic epoch for the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.