The comparisons are obvious aren’t they?

Game seven. A 2-1 final score. Evgeni Malkin’s gutty, role playing, little known, wing emerges among a group of stars to score both goals and save the season.

Bryan Rust=Max Talbot!

Ok, maybe not quite. There is a difference between a game 7 conference final and game 7 Cup final. Plus Rust doesn’t exactly have Talbot’s “the party is wherever Max is” personality. We likely won’t see Rust doing any “superstar treatment” or “rubber ducky” local TV commercials.

And after I made the Rusty=Max analogy to him in the locker room, Kris Letang pointed out another difference too: “Talbot had speed?”

Ouch. What a dart, Tanger! Talbot could skate back then. He just wasn’t Bryan Rust fast. But then again, how many are? Letang, Carl Hagelin and Connor Sheary come to mind. Luckily for the Penguins, they are all on the same roster. And that collection of team speed is the biggest reason why this team has won the NHL Eastern Conference in 2016.

Now Rust has apparently added hands to his repertoire of speed and tenacity. In 55 career NHL regular season games, the rookie totaled just five goals. He has five so far this postseason alone. Thursday night’s heroics were even something his coach didn’t see coming.

“I’m not sure Rusty would’ve been the guy that I picked (to be the hero),” said a smiling Mike Sullivan. “But certainly I love what he brings to this team. I’m happy for him for his effort and his contribution to this team in helping it win for the past 4 or 5 months now. To see him get rewarded with a few goals is a thrill.”

Hagelin knows all about that “all wheels, no finish” reputation. He’s been labeled with it at times over his career. But the 27 year old just finished with a career high 39 points in ‘16. And he can see Rust figuring things out as well. “I think it’s just a matter of getting into the NHL and getting comfortable. Sometimes it’s just a matter of slowing down and realizing you have a little more time than you think,” he said.

Ironically, on a night where finishing a few goals will likely cement his name in Pittsburgh for years to come, Rust’s inconsistency around the net was still an issue. He zipped his way into so many good offensive positions, he actually missed on at least four more prime scoring chances.

“Those last few minutes I was definitely getting nervous. If things didn’t go our way, I would’ve been kicking myself for missing those quality chances,” Rust laughed.

But a week from now…who am I kidding, by tomorrow…no one will remember the chances he missed. He’s just going to be Bryan Rust: THE GUY WHO WON THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL.

“On the bench, Nick Bonino said to me ‘You’re a Pittsburgh hero now.’ And I was, like, what?! Wait! What?”

Bryan, hit Carson Street one night between now and Game 1 vs San Jose. You’ll figure it out.


Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins