Brandon Sutter has been having a roller coaster season so far for the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the team traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Sutter, they were not expecting a guy who would score 29 goals like Staal did in his rookie season. Instead, they were looking for a role player who could forecheck, kill penalties, provide depth down the middle and provide secondary scoring when needed.
Over the last week or so, Sutter has been coming into his own for Pittsburgh and it could not have come at a better time. The Penguins are hurting and hurting badly, literally. Injuries are ongoing for head coach Dan Bylsma, and he has been relying on the talent from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from the AHL.
Sutter played a very solid game defensively Monday night in the team’s 3-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs and was rewarded with an empty net goal after going seven games scoreless. Just when you thought Sutter had his best game of the season, he came out Wednesday night as the hero in a 4-3 win against the New York Rangers. Not only did he score what could be his prettiest goal in his career, but he also beat Henrik Lundqvist with the only shootout goal to give the Penguins the win.
He is always one of Bylsma’s favorite guys on the penalty kill and with good reason. So far this year, he is 51 percent in the faceoff circle which is respectable. He also shows great awareness in his own zone. At 6-foot-3, Sutter is showing some shades of Staal when it comes to getting his stick in the passing lanes and creating turnovers with his long reach.
With Sutter centering the third line for Bylsma, he has shown some finesse in his offensive game as of late despite only tallying seven goals on the season. He has a very quick release on his wrist shot which tends to fool a lot of goaltenders in the NHL. On top of that, he is not afraid to get dirty in front of the opponents’ net.
Sutter has shown a lot of signs of improvement, and the confidence in his game just may be a result with the injuries Pittsburgh has been suffering. It is time for the overlooked center to step up to the plate and show some more consistency moving forward.