The Stanley Cup Finals are a time when legacies are starting to build or continue growing. The spotlight is the brightest it’s ever been in professional hockey. Goal scorers are judged on how clutch they are, or conversely, how much they disappear under pressure and goaltenders are critiqued on the big saves they make or the embarrassing goals they allow.
New Jersey Devils' rookie center Adam Henrique is one of the players using the Finals to show what he is made of.
Henrique had a solid first season in New Jersey after spending 2010-11 with the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany. He finished the regular season with 51 points and a plus-eight rating, ranking second among NHL rookies in points. He finished behind Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers, last year’s top two draft picks, who each had 52 points.
Henrique also ranked fourth on the Devils in points and was first in the NHL with four shorthanded goals, and he added three game-winning goals.
He has 12 points this postseason, good for fourth on New Jersey, and he is first in the league with three game-winning goals. His plus-10 rating is fourth in the NHL.
During the Devils' playoff run, he has established himself as a clutch player. He is just the second rookie in NHL history to score a game-winning goal in Game 7, and the second player to score two series-deciding overtime goals. Henrique scored the clinching goals in Game 7 against the Florida Panthers and Game 6 against the New York Rangers.
In Wednesday’s Game 4, he scored to put the Devils up 2-1 in the third period and help them hang on for Game 5, another tally which turned out to be the game-winner.
Henrique has also become a bigger part of the Devils’ power play unit, which ranks ninth among playoff teams with a 14.8 percent success rate. Although he does not have any power-play goals, he is seventh on the team with 2:12 of ice time on the man advantage. That is an improvement over the regular season, when he was eighth with 1:38 of ice time in the same situation.
Although Henrique has fallen off the score sheet at times these playoffs, he has always come back strong. For example, he scored two goals in Game 7 against the Panthers after a four-game scoreless streak. Then, in the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Philadelphia Flyers, he had three points in Games 4 and 5 after not scoring in Game 3.
Most recently, he scored the winner on Wednesday after not getting on the board in the first three games of the Finals.
This is not the first time Henrique has been on a team that has its backs against the wall. In the 2010 Memorial Cup run, during which he was with the Windsor Spitfires, Windsor found itself down three games to none in the finals. It came back to win the next four games and clinch the Memorial Cup. Henrique had eight points in four games during the tournament.
Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger reports that other Devils players have confidence in Henrique and have not seen a young player who is as cool under pressure as he is. Henrique says, however, that fighting back from a series deficit is a part of the game that he takes in stride:
It’s nice that they have trust in me to put me out there in those certain times of the game. I just play. I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen if I score, if I don’t score. I’m just a kid playing hockey, having some fun.
With such a carefree attitude and the ability to step up for the Devils during the most intense part of the hockey season, Henrique will be a player to watch for the remainder of the finals and hopefully, several more playoff runs for New Jersey in the coming years.
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