Earlier this season, Dustin Penner was the joke of the National Hockey League. Stuck under a big pile of pancakes, figuratively and kind of literally, many wondered if there was even a place for him with the Los Angeles Kings.
Now, in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Kings meet the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals, no one is laughing at Penner. In fact, he’s actually making himself something of a commodity for other teams to look at this summer.
A guy that posted just 17 points in the regular season, after being expected to be a key contributor for the Kings after he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, Penner has been able to laugh at himself through all of the struggles and through all of the flapjacks, and it’s helped him to become a better player.
Penner has eight points this postseason, including a pair of goals, but his contributions go beyond the stat sheet. He’s been a big body in the top six that has played the physical game and has been able to plant his body down in the trenches and help the offense. He was a key contributor on one of Jeff Carter‘s three goals in Game 2, with a slick pass for Carter to swat past Mike Smith for the 2-0 LA lead.
The transformation from regular season Penner to postseason Penner really speaks to his increased focus that we’ve seen this offseason. He was diagnosed as lazy during the regular season, and served as a healthy scratch on more than one occasion. As the postseason wears on, it becomes more and more evident that Penner means business.
As Penner helps the Kings continue on this path towards potentially hoisting their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, he’s also helping himself out greatly.
During those struggles earlier in the season, it was questioned whether or not the Kings would even hang onto Penner for the rest of the season, let alone the future. Now it’s a possibility that he could be in LA for the long term. If not, he could be a popular name out on the free agent market, as he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
Whether or not this Penner is here to stay remains to be seen, but everyone loves a comeback. And Penner has certainly been that in these playoffs.