Do you believe in fate? If you’re a hockey fan, you have to at least believe in miracles, right? In what could turn out to be the best move made by Ray Shero in his time as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM, Jussi Jokinen scored his second career hat trick as the Penguins rolled over the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2.
Jokinen, 36, entered the league after the lockout in 2004-05 as a 22-year Finnish player who ended up taking the hockey world by storm. He scored 55 points (17 goals) and became a star with his shootout ability. His career season came with the Hurricanes, with him scoring 30 goals in 2009-10.
After seeing his production drop after his 30-goal season, he was traded to the Penguins for a conditional late-round draft pick. What made it even more of a steal was the fact that the Hurricanes agreed to retain part of Jokinen’s salary.
Carolina basically paid Jokinen to score that hat trick on them. That isn’t the ‘fate’ I talked about earlier — that is more like a twisted joke. The fate is the reasoning behind Shero making the trade. The big moves that the Penguins made at the trade deadline are well known, as they acquired Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray before making the move for Jokinen.
His name is always on the bottom of the list for one reason: his move wasn’t ‘planned’.
When Sidney Crosby went down with a broken jaw, it forced Shero to reexamine his team and decide whether it had enough offensive pop to survive until Crosby came back. It was decided that Jokinen provided not only offense, but versatility to move down to the third and fourth lines and be effective there once Crosby came back.
Fast forward to tonight, and Jokinen has scored 10 goals in 13 games as a member of the Penguins — not a bad average there. In addition, the chemistry he’s shown with Evgeni Malkin and Beau Bennett has been undeniable.
Jokinen’s quick hands and nimble skating allows him slip by defenders while Malkin carries the puck, pulling all eyes on him until he passes it at the last second to Jokinen, who was one iron shot away from a four-goal night.
Shots will be a little harder to come by once James Neal returns from injury, but even so, it’s hard not to imagine Jokinen not continuing to get his shots in, even if they have to move him around in the lineup. A 20-25 goal season, if not more, should not be too hard to accomplish playing on the team he gets to play on.
Not bad for a guy who cleared waivers before being traded for a late-round pick, wouldn’t you say?