Forget playing in his first Stanley Cup final. For Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Conor Sheary, this is his first NHL post-season.
Through 19 games, the 23-year-old winger has seen a massive increase in ice time and that’s come along with a bump in his production. And with the final only two games old, Sheary has made as big an impact on the series as anyone. He scored in Game 1, netting the Penguins’ second goal of the game, and he did the same in Game 2. The only difference was this time, when Sheary scored Pittsburgh’s second tally of the contest, it was the overtime game-winner.
On a set play off the faceoff, Penguins center Sidney Crosby won the faceoff back to defenseman Kris Letang. Trying to guard against Letang’s shot, Sharks center Logan Couture ventured out to the blueline to block any shot attempt from Letang, but the Penguins rearguard delivered a short slap-pass to Sheary. With more space to work than anyone had had all game, Sheary stepped up, fired a shot between the legs of San Jose defenseman Justin Braun and up over the glove of goaltender Martin Jones before exploding in celebration:
The look on Sheary’s face post-goal says it all. When the season began, he was playing in the AHL for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and the season prior he didn’t even get a taste of the NHL. Now he’s scoring overtime-winners in the Stanley Cup final. That’s quite the pair of seasons.
It shouldn’t be all too surprising that Sheary is really finding his groove as the post-season wears on, though. He’s done the same throughout his career.
In his first pro season, on an amateur tryout with Wilkes-Barre, Sheary came in with two games remaining in the regular season but failed to score in either. Come playoff time, though, he went on a tear. In 15 games, Sheary netted six goals and 11 points. He followed that up in 2014-15 with 20 goals and 45 points in 58 regular season games for the AHL Penguins only to light up the playoffs with five goals and 12 points in eight games.
So, even though Sheary came into the post-season with seven goals and 10 points for Pittsburgh, maybe his four goals and nine points in 19 games could have been expected. Sheary seems like a playoff player, and he’s continuing to prove that with big goals like his Game 2 winner Wednesday night.