Stanley Cup lore is littered with unlikely heroes who scored big goals to push their teams to the finals or propel their teams to Stanley Cup championships. Few, if any will forget Stephane Matteau’s conference championship winning goal to oust the New Jersey Devils and help the New York Rangers erase 50 years of Stanley Cup futility. Other New Yorkers will remember Bobby Nystrom’s overtime winner that launched the 1980s New York Islanders’ Stanley Cup dynasty.
Bryan Rust, a 2014 graduate of Notre Dame, has provided the spark for the Pittsburgh Penguins this year. Rust, despite having a relatively modest regular season with just 4 goals in 41 games, has exploded during the post-season by scoring big goals and delivering consistent play throughout.
The former third round pick, who is currently making $665,000, may be due a pay raise soon given his efforts. Goaltending aside, no asset is more important than secondary scoring if you want to make a deep run at the Stanley Cup. For the Penguins, Rust has produced that in droves this spring by chipping in 6 goals and 3 assists. More importantly have been the timing of his goals. For instance, in game 7 vs. Tampa Bay, Rust scored both goals for Pittsburgh to push them into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2009.
Last night his hot streak continued as Rust kicked off the scoring for the Penguins and helped them to a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead over the San Jose Sharks. Along with his scoring prowess, Rust is now a +11, indicating a willingness and ability to play at both ends of the ice. His contributions to the Penguins have been invaluable.
During the 3rd period of game 1, Rust sustained a hard hit and late hit to the head at the hands of Sharks forward Patrick Marleau. The hit which appeared to be an elbow to the head, sent Rust to the dressing room. Although he returned to the Penguins bench following the hit, Rust skated just one shift after the hit and is listed as day to day with an upper body injury. One can only hope that Rust did not sustain a concussion as a result of hit. Though I don’t think his current hot streak has him pegged for playoff MVP status, he is a player that Penguins have come to rely on and one Notre Dame fans can be proud of.