When you think postseason baseball, you think Derek Jeter. When you think postseason football, you think Tom Brady. When you think postseason basketball, you think LeBron James. When you think postseason hockey, you think…Jake Guentzel?
Maybe not quite yet. But the second year player has amassed 20 goals and 37 points in 32 playoff games. He led the league in goal scoring last playoffs and currently is on the hottest playoff line again with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. He just keeps on chugging away.
You likely didn’t miss it. But if you did, Guentzel scored four goals in the series clinching game six against the Philadelphia Flyers and did so in a relentless fashion as he scored them consecutively. It was even bigger because the Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin and needed someone to pick up the slack. Who better than the kid?
“Jake is such a cerebral player,” head coach Mike Sullivan began as he effusively continued to praise him.
“His greatest asset is probably his hockey sense and his ability to read plays and see the ice and find the soft areas and support the puck. He’s just really good at that. Regardless of where we use him, he has the ability to make those adjustments.”
Sullivan has such a way with words. He’s so compelling and intelligent and thinks the game well and his assessment of Guentzel is spot on. He has the speed and the skill set to play with Crosby, who prefers exactly those traits, and he always thrives no matter what role the Penguins have him playing.
Guentzel didn’t stop after the magical Philadelphia performance, either. He skated into Washington and put up three points in the third period as he and that top line orchestrated a furious comeback to take game one.
Of course, the wise young kid deflected the credit towards his captain.
“I just think we complement each other well,” Guentzel said. “We get on the forecheck and we’re always around each other. Playing with Sid, it makes it pretty easy and opens up a lot of space for us. Just try to take advantage of it.”
It is impressive. Some players just thrive in the postseason. Guentzel has had his fair share of regular season success as well but he just may be remembered for his playoff success. And he’s only 23 years old. The kid is only going to get better from here.