Thursday, June 15, 2017

BLOG: On Phil Kessel's NHL playoff success

The Puck Dynasty podcast currently is on offseason hiatus so it's hard to have an extra mailbag question. Or any questions, for that matter. However, I've had a few people inquire about the below tweet and decided it'd be a good offseason excuse to dust this blog off and answer a couple questions.
Playing a major role on Pittsburgh's back-to-back championship teams, Phil Kessel became the first Minnesota alum to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup twice as a player.

Surprisingly, it took until 2017 for a University of Minnesota player to accomplish this feat. Eight Gophers had their names on the Cup before Kessel and Pittsburgh defeated Paul Martin's San Jose Sharks last season to become the ninth. All eight won once.

Minnesota alums listed on the Stanley Cup as players (NHL team in parenthesis):

  • Mike Polich, 1977 (Montreal)
  • Frank Pietrangelo, 1991 (Pittsburgh)
  • Neal Broten, 1995 (New Jersey)
  • Tom Chorske, 1995 (New Jersey)
  • Chris McAlpine, 1995 (New Jersey)
  • Ben Clymer, 2004 (Tampa Bay)
  • Alex Goligoski, 2009 (Pittsburgh)
  • Nick Leddy, 2013 (Chicago)
  • Phil Kessel, 2016 (Pittsburgh)
  • Phil Kessel, 2017 (Pittsburgh)

Kessel, whose one season (2005-2006) at Minnesota resulted in one of the team's most well-known NCAA Tournament defeats, ends up being the first despite a few names being in position or on teams that won multiple Stanley Cups in a short period of time. Frank Pietrangelo, Pittsburgh's backup goalie in 1991, ended up traded to Hartford the next season and missing out on the second of back-to-back Stanley Cups. Nick Leddy was a salary cap casualty, traded to New York the season before Chicago won its second Cup in three years.

Finally, Neal Broten played in two Stanley Cup Finals with Minnesota (1981, 1991), losing both before raising the trophy with New Jersey.

Besides being in the right place at the right time, Kessel's recent playoff success sees him near the top, among Minnesota alumni, of several NHL postseason categories.

He currently is second in playoff goals (31) and points (66) behind Broten, who has 98 (35G-63A). (The 29 year-old is also second in regular season goals with 296.) Kessel sits third, with Broten and Paul Martin ahead, in assists with 35 yet played the eighth-most playoff games. His 71, accumulated over five postseason trips, is nearly half the number of games Broten (135) played in his lengthy career. Martin, who in a 13 year NHL career has yet to miss a postseason, so far played in 115.

Barring something strange, Kessel should have more playoff runs in him to give Broten's records a run. Even now, with two Stanley Cups, the Gopher alum can be considered among the school's most successful NHL playoff performers.

As well as top-2 in the Kessel family.

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