What more can be said about Jussi Jokinen
Really. That’s not a rhetorical question, because I just don’t have the answer.
I could credit him for scoring a memorable, game-winning goal in a pivotal postseason game, but I already did that when he beat the Devils with 0.2 seconds left in Game 4. I could call him a playoff legend in the making, but I’ve already done that too, after he tied Game 7 with just over a minute remaining.
Amazingly, he just keeps scoring huge goals, and his overtime winner last night has put the Hurricanes in the driver’s seat in their series with the Boston Bruins.
Normally I would accept being at a loss for words when it comes to what Jokinen has done in the last few weeks, but you probably didn’t come here to stare at a blank page. So, let’s try to put this in some perspective.
He now has five playoff goals, which tie him for fourth place in the NHL. His two game-winners tie him for first, although there’s no stat to quantify the dramatic nature of his efforts. He’s tied for third on the team in total points, and only fellow man-on-fire Eric Staal has more goals with seven.
All that comes after a regular season where Jokinen scored just seven goals in 71 games, mostly with a Tampa Bay team that couldn’t find a role for the versatile Fin. When he was going through that tough time, which included healthy scratches and two trips through the waiver wire, then-teammate Mark Recchi was one of the players who helped him get through it.
“Those guys kept telling me I was a good hockey player and I was going to get my chance,” said Jokinen. “They told me to keep working hard and to keep my head up.”
Although he couldn’t have foreseen that he’d meet him again as an opponent in the playoffs, Recchi, now a member of the Bruins, may wish he had just kept his mouth shut or at least advised him to go back to Finland. Just kidding, of course. Despite his disappointment in last night’s game, I suspect that deep down, Recchi has an appreciation for what Jokinen has accomplished.
The Hurricanes certainly do. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, because there will be time to sort these things out when the season ends, whenever that may be, but Jokinen is a restricted free agent after this season. While he won’t be able to sign for another team without one of those rare offer sheet scrambles, he’ll need a new deal to continue playing for the Hurricanes.
At this rate, despite his flair for the dramatic, that situation has a good chance to resolve itself with plenty of time to spare.