Brandon Sutter was the best player for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. He was one of the few players that was consistent and he did everything from blocking shots to scoring big goals. But when he took an awkward fall in the second period during the Penguins oh-good-lord-they’re-going-to-blow-it-again 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6, he didn’t return to the ice for the remainder of the game.
Sutter hobbled toward the locker room and remained there as Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins desperately hung on for dear life to clinch the series.
The Blue Jackets’ three unanswered goals and Sutter’s absence weren’t a coincidence. Sutter was plus-6 in the series, which was the highest of all the Penguins forwards (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were a combined minus-1). When the Penguins needed to hold onto the lead, they were without their two best defensive centers in Sutter and Joe Vitale, who also left the game with an injury.
Sutter was one of the few Penguins winning faceoffs and he was one of the few players who could match the physicality that the Blue Jackets brought all series.
For a third line center, Sutter played with the confidence of a superstar – just look at his breakaway goal in game 6. Even with the opportunity to have Lee Stempniak alone with him on a 2-on-0, Sutter took the puck in on Sergei Bobrovsky and slickly beat him on his backhand. For someone who only scored 13 goals during the regular season, he looked like a natural goal scorer.
If Sutter isn’t ready to go by the time the next series rolls around, the Penguins could be in trouble. He is one of the few guys that can play in every situation, and with the Penguins struggling to hold on to leads, having their best defensive forward in the press box isn’t going to make things any easier.