Pittsburgh – – When you talk about the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang is a name that always comes up. Right now the Penguins best defenseman is on the shelf and won’t be making a Stanley Cup appearance. When the injury occurred Penguins GM Jim Rutherford sprang into action and acquired 36-year-old blueliner, Ron Hainsey.
Hainsey played for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013. Rutherford was his GM at the time and he liked what he saw. When he had a chance to acquire him he didn’t hesitate. There’s no way when that happened he envisioned that he would be playing in a top pairing role in his first-ever Stanley Cup appearance and yet that’s what’s happening.
The Bolton, CT native is the kind of player who would be among the early recipients to get the Cup passed to him if the Penguins win the series. He’s well liked in the room and he’s very open and honest in interviews. His five points in 20 games doesn’t mimic Letang’s offense in any way. However, his smart play and puck moving ability does and that’s why Mike Sullivan has been using him in a top-pairing role.
“I certainly thought this team had a chance to do this,” said Hainsey. “Knowing that the road we were going to have with Columbus, Washington and whoever it was going to be, those series were going to have a chance to go either way.”
Sullivan saw his team dig down deep in Game 1 and knows he has a chance to do the same in Game 2.
“This team has worked so hard for a long time to earn this opportunity where we’re at,” Sullivan said. “So I think our group of players are as motivated, as excited, as determined each and every day because of that.”
The Penguins may have pulled off a 5-3, Game 1 win but the players weren’t kidding themselves and know they have to improve upon that performance.
“We didn’t play well,” Hainsey added. “Maybe because they were doing some things that we couldn’t respond to.”
Game 2 starts at 8PM on NBCSN.