Belechick – Brady
Jordan – Pippen
Rutherford – Kessel
You’re probably looking at this list of duos right now and thinking to yourself, “Rutherford and Kessel? That doesn’t make any goddamn sense.” And to which I would have to agree. Yes, those two names being listed in the same context as two other historically successful duos (that have won 5 and 6 championships, respectively), does not make any goddamn sense.
If it wasn’t for those two beautiful human beings pictured above, the Penguins probably do not win the Stanley Cup a year ago. And to a lesser degree, the same can probably be said for last night.
Before you probably even sat down to turn on the TV for the game last night, Matt Murray went down with an apparent
hamstring lower body injury in warm ups.
Concerning? Yes. End of the world? Probably not. And do you know why you felt that way? That would be because Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford has refused to get rid of Marc Andre Fleury ever since Matt Murray has become the team’s clear cut #1 goaltender. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t see a whole lot of other GMs in the NHL keeping Fleury in that type of situation. To most hockey experts, it seems perfectly reasonable to trade an above average backup goaltender in return for valuable assets when your starting goaltender is a. 10 years younger, b. $2 million cheaper, and c., to put it bluntly, better. On top of that, he’s a proven Stanley Cup champion that posted 15 wins and a .923 save percentage in last year’s postseason.
You know what GMs like Jim Rutherford prioritize more, though? Having an experienced (and successful) backup goaltender that can be thrown between the pipes at a moment’s notice – even during the most important games of the year. And Marc Andre Fleury made it evident last night why trading him could’ve been a potentially big mistake. I can’t imagine there are too many “backups” out there that can get peppered by 16 shots in the 1st period of a playoff game and not crumble. Instead, Fleury was a brick wall, stopping 31 of 32 shots he faced from the Blue Jackets. It was a very encouraging sign for Penguins fans to see that not all hope is lost even if Murray is going to be out for an extended absence. Jim Rutherford and his giant balls deserve all the credit in the world for that kind of decision.
As for the other part of this newfound dynamic duo, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel showed us all why scoring 2 goals in his last 25 games of the regular season doesn’t mean shit. Like I mentioned in my series preview, guys like Phil Kessel are flat out built for the postseason. When the postseason begins, the game simplifies. For forwards, it’s all about cycling pucks and getting as many shots on net as possible. And those are two things that Phil Kessel does very well. He’s not overly flashy or physical, he just finds a way to keep the puck in the offensive zone and put pucks on net as often as he can.
It also doesn’t hurt that he has an absolute laser of a wrist shot.
Kessel, who arguably deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy more so than Sidney Crosby last year, picked up last night right where he left off last postseason. He contributed a goal and an assist in the 2nd period for a Penguins’ offense that looked rather awful in the 1st period generating only four shots. Without him (and Fleury) the Penguins probably don’t win Game 1. Instead, we’re all walking around with a hop in our step today thanks to America’s newest dynamic duo.