During this time of the year, it comes as no surprise that scoring powerhouses like Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
are a major help to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their quest to eliminate each of their playoff opponents on the road to the Stanley Cup Finals this season.
But when one of the team’s best two-way forwards, Jordan Staal
, was forced to leave Game 1 of the Penguins’ second-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens due to an undisclosed injury on Friday night, the team’s extraordinary depth proved to be especially beneficial for the defending Cup champions.
“We’re undisclosed with the injury, and it’s being evaluated further,” head coach Dan Bylsma said of Staal’s status.
The 21-year-old Staal, who scored on the power play at 6:33 in the first period, left the game at 8:55 in the second, causing the team to send in Maxime Talbot and Craig Adams
to fill his spot alongside Pascal Dupuis
and Matt Cooke
. With just under two minutes left in the period, Adams cashed in on a major scoring opportunity with 1:24 remaining when he received a pass from Dupuis, who was stationed at the near circle.
Adams tapped the puck through the legs of Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak at the crease to add to the Penguins’ lead, 4-2, in an eventual 6-3 victory.
“Cookie (Matt Cooke
) got the puck to Pascal (Dupuis),” Adams said. “When I came off the bench and saw him get it, I saw him take a quick look over to me, so I knew that he knew I was there. I just kind of went to the back door, and he made a great pass.”
With the Penguins battling toward the conference final, Adams said it is especially important for players to step up their game when their teammates are out of the lineup.
“It’s important obviously,” Adams said. “I don’t think that we can replace Staalsy (Jordan Staal
) by any means. Obviously we are going to have to come in and play more minutes than we usually would. He’s going to be a tough guy to replace, so it’s probably going to take a little bit from everybody.”
Despite a scoreless regular season, Adams is proving to be quite the playoff hero after notching two playoff goals thus far in the postseason.
“I’m not trying to do anything differently than I did in the regular season,” he said. “I just try to play my game, and if we get good offensive zone time and play the game in their end, eventually you’re going to get some chances. Hopefully, they’ll keep going in for me.”
Cooke also acknowledged how Adams and Talbot played as fierce centers throughout the remainder of the game and said that the key to maintaining a strong line in Staal’s absence is just to play a straightforward game by paying attention to details.
“I think that we did pretty well,” Cooke said. “We created some offense. If anything, we just get a little simpler, especially with Duper (Pascal Dupuis
) and me. We’ve been doing pretty well together and felt that we have a little bit of chemistry. We can maybe try and be a little simpler than we are normally and put pucks behind their defense and play in the offensive zone.”
Going forward into Game 2, head coach Dan Bylsma said that the team already has a plan should Staal be unable to return to the ice in the near future.
“We like having three big centers down the middle, and obviously we would have to make an adjustment if he were not able to get back in the lineup Sunday for Game 2,” Bylsma said. “We have role-playing centermen to fill in that spot, but it would certainly change the matchup situations. Jordan is used a lot against other teams’ top lines, so that certainly would have to be adjusted.”