Tomas Sandstrom spent 5 of his 15 season career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is the archetype of a power forward. Tenacious, fast, size, speed, high-pain threshold, are words and phrases you could use to describe Sandstrom’s hockey prowess.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had some of the greatest players in NHL history appear on their rosters. With 12 alumni presently enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it stands to reason that the number will only increase in the years to come.
What about the players that have made significant contributions to the team either directly or indirectly?
That leads us to our new series profiling the “Unsung Heroes” of the Pittsburgh Penguins and our first entry Tomas Sandstrom.
Condensed career highlights:
- Scored 9 career hat tricks (four with New York and five with Los Angeles)
- One of the only wingers in NHL history to play with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky
- Scored a career-high 6 points on Nov. 8, 1992
- Scored a career-high four goals on Jan. 11, 1987
- Named to the 1985 All-Rookie Team
- Named NHL All-Star twice (1988 and 1991)
- Won 1997 Stanley Cup with Detroit
- Scored goals on both career penalty shots
Sandstrom was drafted by the New York Rangers in the second round (36th overall) of the 1982 NHL entry draft and scored his first career NHL goal in his first game, on Oct. 11, 1984, against Hartford.
All together Sandstrom spent 6 years with the Rangers and scored 380 points in 407 regular-season games played (GP) and 8 goals and 20 points in 29 playoff GP.
Sandstrom and Granato immediately flanked Wayne Gretzky and formed a phenomenal line for Los Angeles. Sandstrom would see action with Jari Kurri and Luc Robitaille in Gretzky’s absence due to injuries.
During his time with the Kings, Sandstrom suffered some significant injuries:
- Broken cheekbone in 1990 following a punch from Glenn Anderson
- Fractured leg in 1991 following a collision with Craig Muni
- Fractured forearm in 1992 following a slash from Doug Gilmour
Sandstrom was instrumental in helping the Kings reach the 1993 Stanley Cup finals, his 8 goals, and 25 points, placed him third in scoring behind Gilmour and Gretzky.
Overall Sandstrom scored 117 goals and 254 points in 235 regular season GP with the Kings and 17 goals and 45 points in 50 playoff games.
On Feb. 16, 1994, Sandstrom and Shawn McEachern were traded to the Penguins in exchange for Marty McSorley and Jim Paek. The deal essentially reserved an earlier trade between the clubs in August of 1993 that involved McSorley and McEachern.
During his time with the Penguins, Sandstrom stacked together 16 multi-goal games, scored four points on three occasions and three points on 9 occasions.
Sandstrom registered a career-high 10 shots which resulted in two goals on Dec. 9, 1995, vs. Montreal.
Sandstrom’s most productive season with the Penguins was the 1995-96 season, where he scored 35 goals and 70 points in 58 GP.
Unfortunately, Sandstrom was unable to replicate his regular-season output in the postseason as his production fell to six points in the Penguins 18 games.
It’s worth noting that a vast majority of Pittsburgh’s top talent experienced dry spells during the team’s run to the Conference final and subsequent elimination by the Florida Panthers.
On Jan. 27, 1997, Pittsburgh traded Sandstrom to the Detroit Red Wings for Greg Johnson.
Overall, Sandstrom scored 71 goals and 155 points in 172 regular season GP which ranks him 47th on the all-time Penguins scoring list.
Shot Through the Heart
While Sandstrom’s time with Pittsburgh was notable, it was an assist in the 1997 Stanley Cup final that Penguins fans should look upon with deep reverence.
When the Philadelphia Flyers and Red Wings met in the Cup Final, it marked the first finals appearance for the Flyers since 1987. Philadelphia’s road to the cup included a 4-1 series dismemberment of the Penguins in the first round, which ended Lemieux’s farewell tour on a sour note.
Ironically, game one of the series was held on the 10th anniversary of the Flyers game seven overtime loss to the Oilers in 1987.
The Red Wings held a 3-0 series lead and 1-0 lead heading into the second period of the fourth game when Sandstrom snagged a loose puck and fed Darren McCarty, who proceeded to undress Flyers rookie defenceman Janne Niinimaa and goaltender Ron Hextall, to give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.
Eric Lindros scored late in the third period to cut the lead to one, but McCarty’s goal stood as the game-winner, and Sandstrom found himself with the biggest assist of his career, which helped Detroit capture it’s first Stanley Cup title in 42 years.
Sandstrom signed with the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 20, 1997, and appeared in 135 games, scoring 25 goals and 49 points, before heading to Sweden for the final three seasons of his career at the end of the 1998-99 campaign.
All-in-all, Sandstrom scored 856 points in 983 GP, and 1193 penalty minutes in the NHL and is without a doubt one of the Penguins “Unsung Heroes.”
What do you think of Sandstrom’s time with the Penguins? Drop a line below.