Pittsburgh Penguins ‘Center Jake Guentzel went full rampage with four goals in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Is this one performance enough to toss his name into the Conn Smythe picture?
As Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Carl Hagelin skated to the bench spitting blood in the second period, the result from a rapturous hit by Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux, the Wells Fargo Center in Philly could not be contained. It seemed that at any moment the lid might blow off.
Philadelphia was leading Game 6 by a score of 3-2, its club had been laying down the law by way of crushing blows, and in fact, the Flyers would add another about two minutes later. Things seemed headed to a deciding Game 7. Funny how things work out. Though if you ask Jake Guentzel, maybe it isn’t funny at all. Perhaps it was the plan all along.
Fast forward to the end of the game, the Penguins with an 8-5 win, Flyers fans booing the refs and throwing beer cans and other oddities onto the ice, and you may wonder how this one got away so quickly. Again, just ask Guentzel. He knows.
After Philly took that 4-2 lead in the second, and after Hagelin went to the bench having looked like a rag doll knocked silly by Claude Giroux, Guentzel decided he didn’t want to play the Flyers’ game of whack-a-mole. He wanted to score goals. That he did. Four of them, actually, with an assist to boot.
His first goal tied it with less than a minute left in that same frame, and then in the third? He might as well have been the only one on the ice for Pittsburgh.
Check out the summary in that last period:
Guentzel thirty seconds in, Guentzel 12 minutes later, Guentzel ten seconds after that. He eliminated the Flyers all by himself. It’s the type of performance that attests to the fact that skill will always win out over brawn. That may not have held true 20 years ago, but it holds true now. While Philly looked to beat the body into submission, Pittsburgh went ahead and took the punches knowing they had more to dish out than straight jabs.
In a way, it’s unfortunate. Sean Couturier for the Flyers had a masterful performance of his own with a hatty and two assists. We could be talking about him right now instead of Guentzel. But we won’t be. The Penguins advance to the second round. Philadelphia will be left to wander about the golf range.
The question now is, did Guentzel throw his hat into the Conn Smythe ring with this single game? It would take more in the next round, of course, to consider him a top runner, seeing as how Sidney Crosby still plays on his team and there’s some chef in Boston named David Pastrnak to contend with. But don’t discount him if he keeps it hot. He has six goals now and 13 points. We could be witnessing the emergence of another second-year stud.
For now, though, the Flyers and their fans will have to sit with this one. It’s going to burn for a long time. Having been up 4-2 and lost 8-5, that will sting like fire the entire offseason. If you ask Guentzel, that’s simply how it goes. And for whoever they square up against next, the lessons here could be far-reaching. You can punch, but the comeback is strong.