The Pittsburgh Penguins continue their quest for back-to-back Stanley Cups this Saturday night, when they host the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. And like last year, the Pens progress has been led by players with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton pedigrees.
Lets start at the top – as in the top goal scorer. Jake Guentzel, who began the season in NEPA, has rattled off an NHL-best nine goals in his first 12 playoff games. Included in his performance was a postseason hat trick in Game Three against the Columbus Blue Jackets and a total of three game-winning goals. One of those was the OT winner to cap the hat trick agains Columbus.
Guentzel has posted 14 points so far, which is good for fourth in NHL. His most recent point – an assist on Bryan Rust’s goal in Game Seven against the Washington Capitals – broke Pittsburgh’s record for rookie scoring in a postseason. That mark was formerly held by Jaromir Jagr, who needed 24 games to hit that mark in 1991.
Speaking of Rust, he continues to show clutch play in the biggest games. Rust recorded both goals in a 2-1, Game Seven win against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season to get the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals, and followed that up by notching the series clinching against the Caps earlier this week.
Rust has five goals in 12 games this postseason, including a pair of game-winners. Three of his 11 career playoff goals have been GWGs.
On the other end of the rink, Marc-Andre Fleury has been the saving grace, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.55 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He turned aside 29 shots in the finale against Washington, giving him nine shutouts in his Pittsburgh playoff career.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner is Pittsburgh’s all-time playoff leader among goalies in games (112), starts (110) and wins (61).
Six other skaters who saw regular play with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have also suited up in the 2017 playoffs for Pittsburgh, including Conor Shear (11gp, 0-3-3), Tom Kuhnhackl (11gm, 1-1-2), Scott Wilson (8gp, 1-1-2), Brian Dumoulin (12gp, 0-2-2), Carter Rowney (7gp, 0-0-0) and Chad Ruhwedel (2gp, 0-0-0). Both Rowney and Ruhwedel spent time in NEPA this season, and made their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts this year.
Pittsburgh and Ottawa will face off at PPG Arena on Saturday at 7:00pm and Monday at 8:00pm. The series moves to Ottawa for Games Three (Wednesday) and Four (Friday). Both of those contests are scheduled for 8:00pm starts.