Pittsburgh Penguins History: Unlikeliest Playoff Heroes

Pittsburgh Penguins, Derick Brassard. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Penguins, Derick Brassard. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had several big-name heroes rise to the occasion during their 50 plus years in the league, but sometimes heroes rise from unlikely places.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had several big-name heroes rise to the occasion during their 50 plus years in the league, but sometimes heroes rise from unlikely places.

Here is a look back at some of the Pittsburgh Penguins unlikeliest playoff heroes.

Tough Guise

Francois Leroux

While probably most remembered for the hit that ended Pat Lafontaine’s career and knocking out Rob Ray, it was a goal in the 1996 playoffs that put him on our list.

Leroux played 249 regular-season games over 10-years from 1988-98 in the NHL with Edmonton, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Colorado, earning three goals and 20 points, with 577 penalty minutes (PIM). Leroux made appearances in 33 playoff games from 1994-97, all with Pittsburgh.

Leroux scored the only postseason and game-winning-goal (GWG) of his career, in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 over Washington in Game 5 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, to help the Penguins take a 3-2 series lead. Leroux also had a couple of big names attached to the scoresheet on his goal, with Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved earning the apples.

Olli Maatta

Maatta displayed tremendous adversity during his six-year stint with the Penguins from 2013-19, battling back from injuries and facing some serious health scares.

Maatta appeared in 362 regular-season games and scored 25 goals ( 7 GWG) and 107 points prior to being traded to Chicago.

In 69 postseason games with Pittsburgh, Maatta scored two goals and 21 points. Both of Maatta’s goals were scored in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Ottawa, with the second goal holding the most implications for the Penguins.

During Game 5 of the series, Maatta opened the scoring for Pittsburgh and it proved to the GWG as the Penguins beat up the Senators 7-0 to earn a 3-2 series lead.

California Dreaming

Beau Bennett

Bennett faced similar injury issues to Maatta, it seemed as he took a step forward, some calamity would take him from the lineup again.

The Gardena, Cali. Native appeared in 129 regular-season-games with the Penguins from 2012-16 and scored 16 goals (4 GWG) and 45 points.

Bennett also appeared in 21 postseason games, adding two goals and four points. Bennett’s first career playoff goal probably ranks amongst the biggest of his career, as he opened the scoring for the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals vs. the Islanders.

Bennett’s tally would stand as the GWG as Pittsburgh defeated New York 5-0. The fact the goal was scored on the powerplay added a little additional sauce for the 2016 Stanley Cup Winner.

Brooks Orpik

Orpik didn’t score many goals while he was with Pittsburgh, but when he did, he made them count.

Orpik is the sixth longest-tenured player in Penguins history with 703 regular season GP in 11 years with the club and scored 13 goals and 132 points.

In the postseason, Orpik made appearances in 92 games, scoring two goals and 15 points. Orpik played the overtime hero in the Penguins 2013 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals vs. Islanders.

Orpik’s goal secured the series for the Penguins and was his first goal in 77 playoff games and the first goal he scored in 106 total games.

Lowered Expectations

Derick Brassard

It is safe to say that Brassard failed to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him when he arrived in Pittsburgh.

Although he earned a respectable 12 goals and 23 points in 54 regular-season games, for one reason or another he never quite fit on the roster and became the target of criticism.

Brassard appeared in 12 playoff games with the Penguins in 2017-18 and scored one goal and four points

Luckily for Pittsburgh, the only goal he scored was a big one.

Brassard earned the GWG with a powerplay marker in a 5-1 Penguins victory over Philadelphia in the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The win gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 series lead.

Who was your favorite unlikeliest hero for the Pittsburgh Penguins? Drop them in the comment section below.