Despite being the eight seed in the vaunted Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves four wins away from their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. The recipe for success has been timely scoring, solid defense, and superb goaltending.
But, while Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Mike Richards, and Anze Kopitar have received most of the attention, Rob Scuderi has continued to perform at a high yet unnoticeable level. In 14 playoff games, Scuderi is a +8 with 21 blocked shots.
This is nothing new to Penguins' fans, who witnessed "Scuds" become a shutdown defenseman in the 2009 playoffs. After teaming up with Hal Gill to shutdown Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Staal in the first three rounds, Scuderi made two unbelievable plays in game six of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals against Detroit. Late in the third, the Penguins were up 2-1 when the puck trickled past Marc-Andre Fleury and sat in the crease. With Red Wings swirling around the crease, Rob Scuderi made a last-ditch effort to knock the puck out of harm's way.
Then, with 16 seconds remaining in the game, Marian Hossa's shot produced a big rebound in front of the net. With Fleury out of position, swaying to the left side of the crease, Johan Franzen had a golden opportunity to tie the game. But as Franzen jabbed away at the puck, Rob Scuderi made two amazing kick saves to buy enough time for Fleury to cover the puck and stop play. The Penguins would go on to win game six and, eventually, game seven to clinch the Stanley Cup.
Rob Scuderi was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 5th round of the 1998 draft out of Boston College after his freshman season. Eleven years later, Scuderi became the first Long-Island native to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
While Evgeni Malkin would end up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Rob Scuderi picked up the nickname "the piece"after misspeaking during a post-game interview. After a Penguins' win, Scuderi accidentally said he was "the piece to the puzzle" instead of "a piece to the puzzle." The quote was more than enough fodder for teammates to give him a hard time.
Three years later, it is Scuderi who has the last laugh. While he is in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins are sitting at home after failing to get out of the first round. Maybe the nickname is more than just a playful inside joke. Against a tough, opportunistic New Jersey Devils team, the Kings will need a complete effort to close out their unprecedented run. Jonathan Quick will need to be stellar between the pipes, Anze Kopitar will need to continue his offensive dominance, and Rob Scuderi will need to be the defensive piece to a championship puzzle.