For the most part, the playoffs follow expected scripts. Great players like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard cemented their legacies in the summer. And sure, there are a few players who have (fairly or unfairly) been branded as disappointments when their star power seemingly fades in the postseason.
But when you get to this time of year, teams are often propelled by the out-of-left-field work of little-known players. Sometimes it just happens for one precious playoff run, but that’s often all it takes to make a lasting impression upon hockey fans.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim is the latest forward to go from blank looks to fan favorite, as he currently leads the 2011 playoffs with eight goals. As Jeremy Roenick notes, Bergenheim is getting to the net and also shooting with confidence. He has the most shots of any Lightning player, with 37 in 12 games, so you cannot downplay his streak to luck alone.
Bergenheim passed fellow “plumber” turned star Joel Ward, who scored seven goals and 12 points in 12 games for the Nashville Predators. As the video at the bottom of this post illustrates, Bergenheim joins an interesting group of players who seemingly came out of nowhere to help their teams. Here’s a quick list Versus put together, in chronological order:
Chris Kontos, Los Angeles Kings – 1989
Kontos enamored Kings fans so deeply that one fellow decided to use his name as his blogger pseudonym. Kontos never scored more than nine goals in any career regular season, yet put up nine in 11 playoff games for the Kings that year.
John Druce, Washington Capitals – 1990
When people think of unexpected playoff scorers, Druce is one of the first players people point to. That’s with good reason, as he scored an impressive 14 goals in 15 games.
Ruslan Fedotenko, Tampa Bay Lightning – 2004
Fedotenko just seems to play better in playoff games, but that point was most illustrated in the Lightning Cup run. He scored 12 goals in 24 playoff games, including eight in his last 11. He also scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 7. Fedotenko went on to win a Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, too.
(Note: one other name I’d like to mention is Fernando Pisani. He scored 14 goals and produced 18 points overall in 24 games with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, helping the team get within one win of a Stanley Cup that year.)
Anyway, enjoy the video. It’s OK to feel nostalgic for the days of Druce and Kontos, by the way.