Pittsburgh has got a number of superstars.
Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal — to name a few.
Most hockey viewers will look at the club and assume that the team will only go as far as those players will take them — because they carry the most value in their lineup.
And they’re dead wrong.
Forward Craig Adams and defenseman Rob Scuderi are the important parts to their success.
Adams and Scuderi don’t have the notoriety; in fact, a number of people would think they hold no purpose towards the outcome of Pittsburgh’s contests.
These two players get no recognition — and they should.
It comes with the territory when they’re surrounded by high-profiled skaters like Crosby and Malkin, but the two hard-nosed grinders are without a doubt the most crucial part to the Pens in winning games.
Masters of the penalty-kill, Adams and Scuderi spend the majority of their times blocking pucks — sacrificing their bodies to limit the amount of shots taken on net to reach it.
Battling for loose pucks and maintaining a persistent forecheck, the two hard-nosed warriors help hold together the nucleus of talent that skates on the top lines.
Re-signing Adams this summer and inking Scuderi to a new four-year-deal as well, the two deals are not better than the extensions given to Letang and Malkin, but they’re just as crucial.
Leading the team in shorthanded minutes (2:39 TOI) last season, Adams placed second among Pens forwards with 37 blocked shots and he finished third on the team with 105 hits delivered — which is a lot of punishment given out.
Carrying over his success on the PK to the postseason, he led the team with 3:39 minutes shorthanded and he blocked 10 shots — where he ranked third on the team for that category.
Although Scuderi didn’t play with Pittsburgh the past four campaigns, Pens fans certainly remember the grit and tenacity he showed when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Spending the last four seasons with the Kings, Scuderi left after the Pens cup win, only to win another one with Los Angeles in 2012.
When he was with Pittsburgh, boy did “The Piece” have some solid numbers.
In his final year before departing to L.A., Scuderi led all Pens skaters with 2:58 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill and he topped all Pens players with — get this — 164 blocked shots during the regular-season.
That’s a massive amount of black-and-blues.
Not only did he lead them in those categories, but he also ranked first on the team with 52 blocked shots shorthanded and led the way with a plus-23 rating.
Even though these two gridiron giants have only 18 points (7G, 11A) combined in the playoffs for Pittsburgh, there worth towards a deep postseason run expands beyond putting points up on the board.
So while the major talents — like Crosby, Letang, and Malkin — receive all the glory, it takes guts to do what Adams and Scuderi do on a daily basis.
Which is why they are the most important pieces to the Pens cup hopes.