Jokinen's veteran presence pays off for Penguins
NEW YORK — Stanley Cup playoff runs are synonymous with unsung heroes.
Jussi Jokinen is taking his turn.
The veteran forward, a solid contributor since being acquired last April, is playing a starring role this spring.
Jokinen and the Penguins can advance to the Eastern Conference final for a second consecutive season Friday at Consol Energy Center with a victory in Game 5 over the New York Rangers.
“I don't even know what to say about him anymore,” defenseman Olli Maatta said of Jokinen. “It seems like every shot he takes, it goes in. When you're hot, you're hot.”
Jokinen is tied with the Kings' Marian Gaborik for the NHL lead with six postseason goals. Jokinen's three game-winning goals are tied with Chicago's Jonathan Toews for the playoff lead.
While star forwards such as Sidney Crosby (one goal) and James Neal (one goal) have struggled to find their scoring touch during the first three weeks of the postseason, Jokinen's play has helped the Penguins offense remain dangerous.
They are averaging a very healthy 3.2 goals per game in the playoffs despite playing two former Vezina Award-winning goalies in Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Montreal is the only Eastern Conference team scoring more goals per game than the Penguins during the playoffs.
Jokinen is a big reason for his team's success.
He acknowledged following another game-winning goal at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday that he enjoys playing in high-pressure games.
“I really do love this time of year,” said Jokinen, a standout in the Sochi Olympics. “I think every guy does. This is the best time of year. I've done my work in the summer and during the regular season. Now it's time to play the most important of games. I'm really enjoying it.”
The most stunning aspect of Jokinen's goal-scoring binge regards his surroundings. He scored 21 goals in the regular season, a perfectly respectable number, but was aided by playing on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Neal.
Skating with a center of Malkin's playmaking capabilities will benefit a wing more times than not.
These playoffs, however, largely have seen Jokinen play on a line with center Brandon Sutter and Neal. Sutter is enjoying a strong postseason but doesn't possess Malkin's playmaking skill.
It doesn't matter as Jokinen continues to score at a rapid rate. He has produced a point in eight straight games and nine of 10 postseason games. Jokinen has a goal in three straight games.
“I really do think,” Jokinen said, “that this is some of the best hockey I've ever played. I've felt good all season. My body feels good. And I have a lot of confidence now, and I like being on the ice with good players.”
Jokinen hasn't been perfect. In fact, a couple of missed assignments defensively have led to goals for the Blue Jackets and Rangers.
His defensive miscue triggered a series of plays that resulted in Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert's overtime-winner in Game 2 of the opening round.
His overall body of work, though, has been strong. And his goal-scoring prowess has never appeared so high.
“He's obviously coming up big for us at the right moments,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “He's just so smart. That's the thing about him. He's got the right kind of skill to play with the guys we've got. He's so responsible with the puck. He just understand the right way to play the game.”
Jokinen is an unrestricted free agent this summer and might be pricing out of Pittsburgh.
He certainly cashing in this postseason.
“He's one of those guys that if you are looking for a big goal or a game-winning goal,” coach Dan Bylsma said, “you would want to pick.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense
- Penguins notebook: Superstitious Sprong begins with confidence
- Penguins see Stars, blanked by Dallas in opening game
- Trib NHL predictions for 2015-16
- Opening season away from home may be a good thing, Penguins say
- Penguins rally in wake of Dupuis injury
- Penguins are hoping their days of drama are finally behind them
- Penguins’ prospects could hinge on health of Letang, Maatta