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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oh Say Can Jussi? By: @LuigiLemieux

Oh Say Can Jussi?

Article By: Kyle Fritz (@LuigiLemieux) for Pens Initiative

 Over the course of the first seven games of the 2013-2014 Pittsburgh Penguins season, we have seen a surprising number of guys usually relegated to role players, step up to the plate and show that they are ready to make a contribution in a much bigger way than expected. Tanner Glass is being productive on the ice, Olli Maatta has been showing he has the skill and grit to play at the NHL level, Even the oft-maligned Deryk Engelland turned out to be a better forward than Claude Giroux was in Philly on Thursday night. However no player has peaked the interest of the Penguins faithful quite like our own 30 year old journeyman forward from Kalajoki, Finland.

 The move that brought Jussi Jokinen to the Penguins has in my humble opinion been the savviest of the lot executed by Pens General Manager Ray Shero, during the volley of late season acquisitions meant to bolster an already seemingly loaded lineup for a potential run to the Stanley Cup finals. We saw big names roll into town with a purpose, and just as quickly leave to pursue their goals elsewhere. The only testament of their time here being the multitudes of ill advised jersey purchases littering the backs of a broken-hearted fan base.

 Yet as bewildered and depressed as last season left us, having yet another opportunity slip away from the sure grasp of victory by way of a seemingly effortless four game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins, We did have some points of light to focus on in the vast darkness that is the NHL offseason. One of which was the outstanding performance of one Jussi Jokinen, who in his brief first stint with the Penguins managed to score 7 regular season goals and dish out 4 helpers to aid the cause, while only sitting in timeout for a total of 6 PIMs. That's 11 points in 10 games played for those of you at home counting, which is outstanding by any measure.

 Jokinen's 2013 Postseason left much to be desired, his fantastic grind and plays off of turnovers committed by opposing teams allowed him to sling away another 3 assists, however leaving him goalless until the bitter end. It seems as though this season, Jussi is trying his best to make up for his lack of regulation production in years gone by. Through the first 7 games of this young season Jussi Jokinen has rustled the twine 4 times and has been credited with allowing someone else to take the spotlight twice, dolling out a couple of Juicy (or Jussi?) Assists.

 Jussi's scoring prowess was no more evident than in Pittsburgh's early October tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes. In a game where much talk was made about the fact that the Canes are still paying for NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of Jokinen's 2013-2014 cap hit, Jussi made his former team pay in more ways than one, hitting the net three times to put the Pens in the drivers seat in what could have been a barn-burning back and forth affair. The deluge of black and gold head-wear peppering the ice of Consol Energy Center a fitting celebration of Jussi Jokinen's first career regular season Hat Trick.

 Our Metro Division rivals are not the only ones feeling the effects of Jokinen's big start. Prior to the commencement of the new season, my fellow Pens Initiative team and I took part in a Puck Daddy summer project over at Yahoo! Sports Pittsburgh Penguins: National Hockey League of Nations (Thanks again to Greg Wyshynski), In which we constructed an "All-Time" team for the Penguins based on nationality. Apparently drawing the short straw I fell into the astute honor of writing about the greatest Finnish hockey player to ever grace the ice as a Pen. I took a bit of a leap of faith (even I will admit that) and chose to highlight none other than Jussi Jokinen. Although I did not have much in the way of statistics to look at during his time in the Black and Gold, and at the risk of sounding boastful, Jokinen has been making me look like a halfway intelligent and somewhat perceptive hockey writer ever since. If Jokinen can keep up even a fraction of his current pace for the rest of the season, It should be a pretty special year for our Finnish friend. A big year for him, and even more importantly a big year for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thanks Jussi.

Let's Go Pens.

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