Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"The Ruslan Fedotenko-Max Talbot Connection"

                                (1.)                             (2.)

     Both Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot are not necessarily known for being big time scorers throughout the duration of the regular season. However, they each have some history of coming up huge in the playoffs.

     Now teammates on the Philadelphia Flyers, this is not the first time they have sported the same logo on the front of their jersey's as they were teammates in Pittsburgh and helped lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009. The connection between the two actually goes back all the way to 2004, when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames.

     Ruslan Fedotenko may have not put up the most points, or was the flashiest player on the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004, but he certainly had a spot in being an important role player on the team. Fedotenko tied for the 6th most points on the team with 39 points (17 Goals and 22 assists) With Martin St. Louis finishing 1st on the team and overall as the league's leading scorer with 94 points (38 Goals 56 Assists). Fedotenko was still relatively young. At the age of 25, Fedotanko had only been in the league for a full three seasons prior to the 2004 campaign. His presence was somewhat overshadowed by a pair of the team's other young talented superstars, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards.

     The first two rounds for Tampa Bay were no trouble at all as they defeated the Islanders in five and swept the Canadiens respectively. Though Fedotenko only managed to score three goals through the first eight games, one being a game winner, he started to heat up at the start of the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia! In a 7 game battle with the Flyers, Fedotenko amassed 7 points, 6 of them being goals! Two of which were crucial, with the game winner of Game 3, and scoring on one of the two goals in the Lightning's 2-1 win in Game 7 over the Flyers to advance to the Stanley Cup. Upon entering the Stanley Cup Final, Fedotenko had registered 10 points (9 Goals 1 Assist)

     The Lightning would face the Calgary Flames in another see-saw 7 game series. Through the first six games Fedotenko cooled off, recording just one goal and an assist. Interestingly enough, Fedotenko would play the role of hero in Game 7 by scoring both of Tampa Bay's goals in a 2-1 win to give the Lightning its first Stanley Cup in Franchise history! Fedotenko finished the 2004 Playoffs with 12 goals (tied for 2nd most in the entire playoffs with teammate Brad Richards, only fellow teammate, Martin St. Louis finished ahead of both 13 goals) and 2 assists for a total of 14 points. So what does Ruslan Fedotenko have to do with Max Talbot you may ask? Lets Flash forward five years later to 2009! 

     Ruslan Fedotenko was signed as a free agent in the 2008 off-season by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like in 2004 with Tampa Bay, Fedotenko would find himself with a team loaded with young talent that featured; Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin,Jordan Staal, and Kris Letang. Also just like Fedotenko himself in 2004, the Penguins had another young talent that was overlooked because of other young talent, and that was Maxime(Max) Talbot.

      Talbot, just like Fedotenko,was not a guy who was going to lead his team in scoring, but would still be a key contributor by adding scoring depth and had a lot to offer with hard work and perseverance and be an all around quality player. By season's end, Talbot finished with 22 points (12 Goals 10 Assists) Fedotenko himself finished with 39 (16 Goals 23 Assists) nowhere near Malkin's 113 points or Crosby's 103. Despite that, the playoffs as we know is a whole new season, and just like Fedotenko five years before him, Talbot would provide plenty of offense entering the 2009 postseason!

     For Talbot, the first two rounds were much like Fedotenko's in 2004. Fedotenko produced 3 points (all goals) in the first two rounds of the 04' playoffs with Talbot doing the same in the 09' playoffs, with the only difference being one of the points came as an assist (2 goals 1 assist) Fedotenko through the first two rounds of the 2009 playoffs, had assembled 7 points (4 goals 3 assists) It was not until the conference finals that Max Talbot started to heat up, just like Fedotenko did 5 years earlier with Tampa Bay.

     After beating the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in consecutive rounds respectively, the Pittsburgh Penguins would meet the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. Fedotenko would maintain his consistency while Talbot started to heat up! Fedotenko would provide secondary scoring with 2 goals and an assist while Talbot was effective in his own right with 2 goals of his own and 2 assists to go along with it. In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, Fedotenko and Talbot each had a huge role. Talbot assisted on Fedotenko's goal which tied the game, with Talbot scoring the Game Winning (and Series Clinching) goal and help the Penguins move on to the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive year in a row by sweeping the Hurricanes in four games.

     In a rematch of the previous year's Stanley Cup Final, the Pittsburgh Penguins were looking to avenge their loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The first two games though produced a similar result as Detroit jumped out to a two games to none lead. Fedotenko would score his first and only goal of the series in Game 1, while Talbot was left off the scoreboard all together in the first two games. Talbot would however quickly get out of his short cold streak by catching fire once again in Game 3 as the Penguins won 4-2 thanks in large part to two goals by Talbot, one which was assisted by Fedotenko himself. Talbot himself, again, would play a crucial role in Game 4 as he helped set up the game tying goal with the Penguins eventually going on to win the game and tie the series up at 2-2. After a blowout loss in Game 5, the Penguins returned to Pittsburgh needing a win to force a Game 7. Both Talbot and Fedotenko had a tremendous impact as they helped set up the eventual GWG in Game 6 to set up a Game 7 showdown with everything on the line. Just like fives years earlier when Fedotenko found himself in the exact same situation with the Tampa Bay Lightning when they headed into a Game 7 with the Calgary Flames!

     With all eyes on the Penguins and Red Wings heading into Game 7, the story around Ruslan Fedotenko actually started to come to a head when his Game 7 heroics five years earlier helped the Tampa Bay Lightning capture Lord Stanley with his two goals in a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. In fact, in an interview(1.) posted by George Malik via  "NHLMedia", Fedotenko was asked  "you've been there, you've been the hero, you've done it. Do you say something to your teammates tomorrow about that moment? To which he replied Oh, for sure. I will have my moment, and I will talk to the team before the game." Interestingly enough, Crosby was asked an intriguing question himself

     "Ruslan Fedotenko scored a pair of goals to give his team the Cup in a Game 7 that nobody really expected he would do because of the talent they had. Is there any talk in your dressing room about a hero, an unexpected hero emerging tomorrow? Someone different stepping up?" Crosby's response "There's not really talk, but I think that's what you see in these situations a lot. You know, somebody finds a way to elevate their game no matter who it is. But we see that happen a lot, so we haven't really talked about it, but we're hoping Feds has a lot of confidence after that game and can do the same thing."

     Indeed an unexpected hero would step up like Fedotenko did, this time it would be none other than Max Talbot! After a scoreless 1st period, Talbot would open the game's scoring with the 1st goal just 73 seconds into the 2nd period. Just under nine minutes later, Talbot would once again light the lamp beating Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood for a second time to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. That score would hold up until the Red Wings would score late in the 3rd period to cut the lead in half. In the end, it was not enough for the Red Wings. Pittsburgh held on to win 2-1 and capture the team's 3rd Stanley Cup thanks to Talbot's heroic efforts just like Fedotenko's five years earlier.
     The connection between Fedotenko and Talbot is interesting to say the least. Teammates once again, it would be interesting to see if history would repeat itself the same way it did with these two with another young talent that ends up being overlooked due to other highly touted superstars on the team, and ends up doing the exact same thing they did in a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. (As a Penguins fan I would hope not, at least not at this particular time since they are currently members of the Philadelphia Flyers) In any case, their heroic efforts, along with the many similarities between the two draw interesting parallels with one another, which I will end with by providing the circumstances that draw them to one another, especially when it comes to the playoffs!

The Fedotenko-Talbot Parallels

- Both scored Stanley Cup winning goals in 2-1 wins with each scoring both team's goals (both of their goals came before the other team's lone goal)

- They each broke a pattern that transpired during the series (Fedotenko ended pattern of teams alternating wins with Calgary winning games 1, 3, and 5 and Tampa Bay winning games 2,4,6, and breaking the pattern by winning game 7. Talbot broke the pattern of the home team winning each game with the Penguins winning Game 7 on the road.

-During the '09 playoffs, Fedtenko assisted on 2 of Talbot's goals and likewise, Talbot assisted on 2 of Fedtenko's goals

-Both of their 1st career playoff points were an assist, with each of their's occurring in their first postseason appearance's (it would also be the only point each player registered in their first postseason appearances)

-scored their 1st career playoff goals the second time they reached the postseason

-As of 2013, each have 4 career GWG in the playoffs

-Both have now played on the same team twice

Images: (1, 2.) http://legendssportsmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ruslanfedotenko.png  
3. http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.flyersfaithful.com/uploads/2011/09/ruslan-fedotenko-cup-lightning.jpg
4. http://media.naplesnews.com/media/img/photos/2009/06/12/StanM0YI_t607.jpg

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