LOS ANGELES – There’s a pretty good chance that Adam Henrique has never heard of ‘Sudden Death’ Mel Hill. After all, his grandfather was just a young man when Hill performed his playoff heroics in 1939.
But Henrique is doing his best to replicate Hill’s achievement, which gained him immortality when he scored three overtime winners in the semifinal of the playoffs for the Boston Bruins against the New York Rangers. The Bruins went on to win the Cup that year and Hill went down in history.
Now, Henrique isn’t in that class yet. After all, there’s a good chance the Devils will still come up short in their quest for the Cup. But you can’t fault Henrique, three of whose four goals in the playoffs have been of the enormous variety. First, he scored twice, including the game-winner in double overtime, in Game 7 of the first round against the Florida Panthers. After that, he sent the New York Rangers home with his overtime winner in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final. Then he kept his team’s hopes flickering with the game-winner in the Devils 3-1 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.
Add to that his game-winner in overtime of the Memorial Cup semifinal in 2009 and you have a young man who has a penchant for delivering the goods at the most crucial times. He doesn’t really have an explanation for his ability to come through in the clutch, but he does thrive when the games are on the line.
“Everybody wants to be in those situations,” he said. “You want to be counted on by your teammates, your coaches. It’s nice that they have that trust in me to put me out there in those certain times of the game. I just play. I’m just a kid playing hockey, having some fun.”
And he is just a kid, as evidenced by the fact he’s a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He’s just 22 years old with one American League season to his credit, but he has the poise of a veteran. At least when he’s playing the game.
“We won’t talk about off the ice,” said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
But the maturity of Henrique as a player is much more than just scoring big goals. He has all the makings of a center who will be able to play on the second or third line for a long time and contribute somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 goals and 60 points, in other words, providing the kind of secondary offense every team in the NHL is seeking.
“His head is up, his skating ability,” Brodeur said when asked to describe Henrique’s strengths. “The way he handles and protects the puck. It’s pretty amazing to see him at that young age be able to come in and really be an impact guy the way he is. Even though he doesn’t score all the time, he does a lot of good things on the ice.”
The fact Henrique had the presence of mind to take David Clarkson’s pass off his skate, then gather it up and make an elite-level play speaks to his level of poise so early in his career.
“It was a goal-scorer’s play,” said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. “He’s got a knack for that.”
Much was made of Henrique’s decision to dispense with his chin hair that had accumulated over the playoffs and go solely with the moustache for Game 4. Well, maybe he is a kid after all. If he believes his facial hair is going to have an outcome on the result of the game, then all the more power to him.
“Long live the ’stache,” he said.
Ken Campbell will file daily from the Stanley Cup final.