Jarkko Ruutu: The Best Hockey Player No One Is Talking About

Neil MiddletonContributor IApril 20, 2008

When someone talks about clutch performances for the Pittsburgh Penguins, certain names are always in the mix. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney, and Marc-Andre Fleury are all great candidates for these clutch performances. Wait, did I say Ryan Whitney? Only a joke folks, I promise. However, the real star of the Pittsburgh Penguins that no one has yet to credit, is number 37, Jarkko Ruutu.

Ruutu has, in the past, been criticized for his huge mouth and lack of scoring. Journalists claimed Ruutu was just a fight starter, but would never actually drop the gloves. I'll tell these critics this: Ask Darcy Tucker if he remembers a game on January 3, 2008 and if so, ask him if Jarkko Ruutu can fight.

The Penguins have recently enjoyed the kind of playoff success that only teams in the 90's regularly enjoyed. They managed to sweep the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs. Much of that success is attributed to the stellar goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, however if there could be a runner up MVP, Rutuu would deserve it. He scored two goals in the series, the second was the game winner and eventually series clincher.

Jarkko Ruutu does not worry about stats, or goals or assists. He plays hockey and he plays very well. Once this next series starts watch him when he's on the ice. He might keep his name off the scoresheet, but he has grit and determination to win, and that is enough for me. He performs the simple acts during the game to make the lives of the superstars easier. So when you're out shopping for a jersey this coming Christmas, pick #37, he will not let you down.