It’s Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins are holding a precarious 2-1 lead over the Red Wings with 6.5 seconds remaining in regulation – and Detroit has a faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone.
The puck ended up on the stick of Red Wings defenseman Nick Lidstrom, whose shot is turned aside by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
And the ensuing rebound? Well, it had no chance against forward Craig Adams
As the clock wound down and the other Penguins on the ice prepared to throw up their arms in celebration, Adams was flat on his stomach between the puck and the net as two Detroit players dug fruitlessly to free the rubber disc from under his prone body.
It has become Adams’ role to be on the ice in situations like that, and speaks volumes about the type of player he is.RELATED: Pens Re-Sign Forward Craig Adams >>
“Everyone has a different role,” Adams told www.PittsburghPenguins.com. “If we need a goal in the last two minutes, I’m probably not going to be the guy who gets put out there. But if we’re looking to protect a lead, then Dan (Bylsma) has given me that chance quite a few times to be out there in the last minute.”
When asked if he ever felt nervous in situations like that, Adams said he actually felt the complete opposite.
“I love it,” he said. “I don’t see it (as being scary) at all. I never feel that way. I’m excited to be out there and to be in those pressure situations. Obviously being out there at the end of Game 7 was special. I’m glad I had the chance to do it.”
It says a lot about an NHL player when the head coach wants him on the ice to help preserve leads, especially in games like that. And on Thursday, the Penguins locked up that player for the next two years.
Adams, 34, forewent potential unrestricted free agency to sign a two-year contract extension with the Penguins.
“It feels great,” he said. “My family and I are really excited. It feels good that we got something done and it’s good to be staying put here for at least a couple of years.”
|Adams with the Cup in 2009 (Getty Images) |
Adams has been in the league since 2000 and has seen a lot in his 10-plus years in the NHL. And according to Adams, the Penguins franchise shines the brightest. VIEW CRAIG ADAMS PHOTO GALLERY
“You can’t find a better organization in the league than the Penguins,” he said. “All the way from the management and the coaching staff and all the way down. Then obviously with the new building and the fans and the team we have, it’s a great place to play hockey. But beyond that, Pittsburgh is a great city to live in. The support we get around here is great.”
Adams' role has become a big one over his two-plus seasons with Pittsburgh since the team claimed him off waivers from Chicago on March 4, 2009.
For starters, the veteran forward has been an integral part of the Penguins penalty kill, which finished No. 1 in the NHL last season with an 86.1-percent success rate. Adams led the team’s forwards with 3:05 shorthanded minutes per game.
Thanks to his gritty, grinding style of play, Adams also paced all forwards with 64 blocked shots and finished fourth on the team with 171 hits.
It’s also not uncommon to for Adams to repeatedly throw his body in front of shots and do whatever else is necessary to clear the puck out of the Penguins defensive zone, both shorthanded and even strength.
“It’s something you do out of necessity or pride,” he said of the mentality behind blocking shots. “It’s just that I know if I want to be out there and I want to get the chance to be in those situations, those are the things I’ve got to do.”
It’s that selfless play and team-first attitude that has helped the Penguins immensely and, in turn, gained Adams the support of the coaches. WATCH: THE BEST OF CRAIG ADAMS
|Adams going down to block a shot (Getty Images) |
“I think you gain the trust of your coaching staff and then you’re given responsibility,” he said. “You get a chance to play in certain situations that maybe you didn’t get to play in before. In that way, my role has expanded. I’ve got the coaching staff to thank for that. So I’m definitely happy with my role.”
But not only does Adams possess shutdown defensive abilities, penalty kill prowess and the ability to win faceoffs, but he brings that leadership and experience that is absolutely vital in the National Hockey League.
Adams donned an “A” as a Penguins alternate captain on many occasions during the 2010-11 season.
He has won two Stanley Cups in his 10-year NHL career, his other coming with Carolina in 2006. He has played in 669 career regular-season games and has skated in an impressive 73 postseason contests.
But looking ahead, Adams’ goal is simple -- he wants another Cup with Pittsburgh.
“I’m looking forward to winning another Stanley Cup,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. There’s really nothing else. I’m excited to be part of what I know is going to be a competitive team."