To be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs you need role players to grab the spotlight for moments that will truly never be forgotten.
Teams are usually built around superstars, but to make a deep playoff run, unexpected heroes must emerge.
The Penguins have certainly had their fair share of these players throughout their history. Many are still held in high regard by fans to this day.
Frank Pietrangelo made “The Save” in the 1991 Cup run. Petr Nedved and Petr Sykora will never be forgotten for their multiple overtime winners.
What about Darius Kasparaitis? His Game 7 overtime winner against the Buffalo Sabres sent the Pens to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Then, there’s Max Talbot, a hero in the biggest of stages, scoring two goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.
This year’s roster has several candidates that could step up and write their name in Penguins history.
Here are six that could help the Penguins make a deep run in the playoffs:
1. Matt Cullen
Cullen was signed as a free agent this summer to help solidify the bottom six. A solid faceoff man, Cullen also brings veteran leadership and can chip in on offense.
It may have taken a little time to adjust, but Cullen finished the season with 16 goals and 16 assists. The majority of those points came in the second half of the season.
Cullen has playoff experience and helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Also, Cullen was rumored to be put on the wing of a potential line centered by Evgeni Malkin, when he returns from injury. If that is the case, there will definitely be chances for Cullen to stand out.
2. Eric Fehr
Eric Fehr is the type of player that is built for the playoffs.
A physical presence with a veteran mind is the perfect mix for the long haul of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like Cullen, Fehr was brought in to be a calming presence in the locker room when the pressure cooker of the playoffs is turned up.
Fehr had a respectable regular season with eight goals and six assists, but it would not be surprising if his production picked up in the postseason.
3. Jeff Zatkoff
Jeff Zatkoff could end up being the most important player on this list, depending on the health of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.
All but a few select people were surprised to see Zatkoff lead the team out of the tunnel for the start of Game 1. How the Penguins managed to keep that under wraps in this day and age is nothing short of remarkable.
Zatkoff is the third goaltender on the depth chart, but he sure didn’t play like it in Game 1. The Penguins got off to a bit of a slow start, but Zatkoff slammed the door and gave his team a chance to win.
Fleury’s status for Game 2 is still unknown, but he practiced again on Friday. If he can’t play, Zatkoff will likely be back between the pipes. He’s already helped the Pens get a victory in this series. There’s nothing saying he can’t do it again.
4. Conor Sheary
Conor Sheary has been a spark plug for the Penguins since being called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. While small in stature, Sheary has shown a big heart.
He’s got slick hands, incredible speed and isn’t afraid to go after pucks in the trenches. Even when he gets knocked down, he pops right back up and keeps going.
In 44 regular season games, Sheary scored seven goals and added three assists. In Game 1 against the Rangers, Sheary’s hustle helped set up the first goal of the game.
If Friday’s practice is a sign of what is to come in this series, Sheary will be given a golden chance to make his mark. Why? He was playing on a line with Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin.
5. Tom Kuhnhackl
Like Sheary, Tom Khunhackl is feeling it right now. His shorthanded goal in Game 1 was key moment in the Penguins’ 5-2 win.
Kuhnhackl’s style of play is also perfect for the Stanley Cup playoffs; hard skating, hard hitting and a relentless forecheck.
Not to mention, he’s an incredible shot blocker, which has been put to good use on the penalty kill.
We shouldn’t be surprised by his goal in Game 1. In 42 games this season, Kuhnhackl chipped in 5 goals and 10 assists. Two of those goals came while the Penguins were shorthanded.
No. 6 – Beau Bennett
Beau Bennett is often criticized for how many injuries he’s sustained during his short NHL career. Injuries happen and no one wants Bennett to be back on the ice more than he does.
Currently, he’s still listed as day-to-day, but he has practiced over the past couple of days. If he returns to the lineup and stays healthy, Bennett has the potential to add some valuable offensive firepower.
He would likely be placed in the bottom six, but he has seen time alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the past.