Kovacevic: Penguins can’t waste Sutter’s ascent

It was April 28, and Brandon Sutter sat pretty much stone-faced at his stall in Columbus' cramped visitors' locker room. Unlaced his skates. Exchanged a couple pleasantries with teammates. Not much else. And not much different, really, than any of his fellow Penguins, all locked in a drop-dead-serious Stanley Cup playoff series at the time.

But, man, where it concerned Sutter specifically, it was nothing less than diametrically different than a year earlier on Long Island.

The chin was up, not sunk at the chest.

The eyes were focused, not glazed.

“It's not easy the first time you do anything," he'd tell me that morning after I failed to find a polite way to ask what had gotten into him since essentially folding in 2013. "I didn't really get that playoff experience when I played in Carolina, so that was my first. But the people I talked to after that just told me to be myself, to play my game. Don't try to do more. So when I got to playing well late in this season, that's what I wanted to have as my mindset. Just keep going.”

Just keep going?

Uh-uh, sorry, there had to have been something else, something more. Because what played out in that postseason wasn't just Sutter's five goals in 13 games or team-best plus-7 rating. It was that Sutter ... well, Rob Scuderi described it beautifully Wednesday at Consol Energy Center: "He was our best overall forward in the playoffs."

To continue reading, log into your account: