There are a few kinds of unsung heroes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There are the come-out-of-nowhere, a-star-is-born players like Matt Fraser in Game 4 for the Boston Bruins. And then there are the good players in the regular season who inexplicably reach new levels of clutch moments in the postseason.
Players like Jussi Jokinen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins winger has six goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tied with Marian Gaborik for the postseason lead. He now has 27 points in 45 career playoff games – by no means the completely different performer that, say, Danny Briere becomes in the playoffs, but no slouch.
What he does is come up big. Look no further than in 2009, when his goal with 0.2 seconds left in regulation defeated the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of their quarterfinal series and rattled Marty Brodeur:
Jokinen had 11 points, including seven goals, in that Hurricanes’ run to the conference final. Three of those tallies were game-winners.
He already had three game-winning goals in these playoffs for Pittsburgh; in fact, the Penguins are 6-0 in games in which he snaps the twine, including three straight Jokinen goals and victories over the New York Rangers.
"When you jump on the ice in the big moments ... you want to shoot the puck," he told the AP. "You want to be a difference maker and I've had a couple of those moments this series."
As Josh Yohe notes, Jokinen’s accomplishing all of this without the benefit of having either of the Penguins’ big offensive weapons on his line, after skating with Evgeni Malkin during the regular season:
These playoffs, however, largely have seen Jokinen play on a line with center Brandon Sutter and Neal. Sutter is enjoying a strong postseason but doesn't possess Malkin's playmaking skill.
It doesn't matter as Jokinen continues to score at a rapid rate. He has produced a point in eight straight games and nine of 10 postseason games. Jokinen has a goal in three straight games.
“I really do think,” Jokinen said, “that this is some of the best hockey I've ever played. I've felt good all season. My body feels good. And I have a lot of confidence now, and I like being on the ice with good players.”
There’s another type of unsung playoff hero, albeit one that shares some crossover with new stars and expected heroism:
The contract player.
Jokinen’s contract is up after the season. He’s a $3 million a year player.
Mid-level players that excel in the postseason can break the bank. Sean Bergenheim salary jumped by $2 million after his playoff performance in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, when the Florida Panthers signed him. Joel Ward’s doubled when the Washington Capitals signed him after his 13 points in 12 games for Nashville in 2011.
Will the Juice join that parade of playoff-based raises?