Brandon Sutter wondered if his time in the Stanley Cup playoffs would ever arrive.
The Pittsburgh Penguins third-line centre went straight from junior in 2008 to the AHL, and after seven regular-season games with the Albany River Rats the young Sutter was smack in the middle of the Calder Cup playoffs.
But when he made the jump to the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes, four seasons flew by without a single playoff game. Then, finally, after he was traded to the Penguins last summer and after 334 regular season games, the 24-year-old with the famous last name suited up with his new team for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's been great, it's been fun," said Sutter, who now finds himself 11 games into the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and about to begin the East final against the Boston Bruins this weekend.
"It's obviously been an intense time of the year. This has been something I've waited a few years to get into. I thought I eventually would. Obviously a change of scenery helped that. It's been great ever since. It's been a lot fun to win that first series and now this."
Sutter competed in two short playoff runs in junior with the Red Deer Rebels. He won gold with the 2008 Canadian world junior team. He would discuss what the playoffs were all about with his dad, Brent, who won two Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders before Brandon was born.
He would talk about the playoffs with his uncles Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron, who all played in the NHL. He was so excited to have an up-close-and-personal seat when Darryl was the coach of the Calgary Flames and steered them all the way to the seventh game of the 2004 Stanley Cup final.
But nothing could prepare him for the playoff experience like playing in a game or two.
"They [his Dad and uncles] obviously have a lot of experience in the playoffs as a player and as a coach," Brandon said. "It's always great to listen to what they have to say. But it's something you really have to go out and experience yourself, and get a feel for what it's all about."
There's heightened intensity. The atmosphere is unbelievable. The pace of the game shifts into another gear from the regular season.
It hasn't been a smooth transition for the young Sutter in his first immersion with a Penguins playoff run. He has struggled at times. He has only a goal and an assist in 11 games, but has been a dependable face-off man with a 51.4 per cent success rate, the same as teammate Sidney Crosby.
The young Sutter is finding his way. He now finds himself four victories away from his own Stanley Cup final in his first foray into the NHL post-season. He now finds himself sitting in the same dressing room as Jarome Iginla, the player he watched so intently when his uncle Darryl's Flames made their terrific run in 2004.
"That's been pretty cool," Sutter said about having Iginla as a teammate this spring.
It's a little early for this Sutter to allow his mind to drift to what his own Stanley Cup party would be like this summer after his uncle Darryl (head coach of the Kings) held his in Viking, Alta., last July. It was the first time the Stanley Cup returned to the Sutter family since Brent and Duane were teammates on the 1982-83 New York Islanders.
Brandon couldn't make it to the latest Stanley Cup party in Viking. But he did visit with his former Red Deer Rebels teammate Colin Fraser during his day with the Stanley Cup a day earlier.
"I didn't want to get to close to it, but I had fun with Colin that day," Brandon said.
"I was pretty excited for [uncle Darryl]. He played the game for a long time. He's been coaching for a long time. He came close in Calgary. He finally got that chance after that long run last year. It was a great accomplishment."
Sutter family's Stanley Cup playoff history
(A combined 828 games as players and coaches)
- 65 games as a player with St. Louis.
- 68 games as a coach with St. Louis, Boston, Calgary and Chicago.
- 51 games as a player with Chicago.
- 134, including Tuesday night, games as a coach with Chicago, San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles.
- 161 games as a player with N.Y. Islanders and Chicago.
- 144 games as a player with N.Y. Islanders and Chicago.
- 12 games as coach of New Jersey and Calgary.
- 104 games as a player with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Quebec, N.Y. Islanders, Boston, San Jose and Calgary.
- 78 games as a player with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Vancouver, St. Louis, Chicago, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
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- 11 games and counting with Pittsburgh.