Nobody in the NHL has better timing than Pat Maroon, and he showed it once again as his Lightning beat the Rangers on Tuesday to even the Eastern Conference Final at two games apiece. After complete silence with the puck in the opening trio of contests, Maroon reannounced himself just a few minutes into Game 4 by being in the right spot at the right instant. Again.
Zach Bogosian did a lot of the work on this goal. Taking the puck into the zone by the boards after getting a cross-ice pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, he glided around Ryan Reaves, deked through Justin Braun to get in range for a shot, and then backhanded the puck off Igor Shesterkin. From there, Maroon swooped in to knock the rebound across the line, giving Tampa its first goal in an eventual 4-1 victory.
That goal was of a piece with the one he produced to clinch a sweep over the Panthers in the second round. This was probably even more chaotic and incomprehensible, actually, but the story is very similar: Maroon buzzes around the net and takes command of a puck that the goalie can’t handle. It’s perfectly emblematic of his status as an annoying little pest for other teams to play against.
Maroon is far from an indispensable member of the Lightning. His 124 minutes of ice time across 15 playoff games ranks 18th among all Tampa skaters, while his 16 penalty minutes rank fourth. Even more dramatically, in the regular season his 134 minutes spent in the box were 64 more than the next-highest Bolt, even as his 1,004 minutes of ice time put him in 14th place among skaters. The 11-year vet is a hard-hitting winger and always has been, and though he scores on occasion his primary role is to get under the enemy’s skin. He’ll taunt the opposite bench, get into fights with anyone he doesn’t like, and even bait his adversaries into penalties.
You can go back through time and see Maroon laying the groundwork for all sorts of bad blood in the postseason, from his infringing on Shesterkin’s sacred personal space to his fights with Wayne Simmonds and Reaves to his taunting of the Panthers last year:
But there are plenty of physical, low-usage wingers for hire in the NHL. What sets Maroon apart isn’t these antics but their final outcome. For three straight years now—once in his only season with his hometown Blues and then twice after he was recruited to sign with the Lightning—Maroon’s season has ended with him hoisting the Cup. (His devil-may-care attitude has carried over to the championship celebrations, too.) A player three-peating while changing teams in between was already unprecedented in the post–Original Six era, and now, after this win he helped the Lightning snag, Maroon is just two more away from his 15th straight series win and six away from his fourth Cup in a row.
In a league that now boasts 32 teams, it truly blows the mind that Maroon has been able to pick correctly now on three straight contracts—his one-year deal with St. Louis, his one-year deal with Tampa, and then a two-year extension. Is a lot of it luck? Of course it is. It’s not like he was a particularly sought-after guy who had his choice of destinations. But now, after Maroon’s won and won and won again and still might win another, there has to be at least a bit of a psychological edge that the Lightning gain from icing him. He is not Pat Maroon, that fourth-liner, or Pat Maroon, that jerk. He is Pat Maroon, winner. And even though it doesn’t make a ton of business sense to lock down your older fringe guys for multiple years, the superstitious among us can easily understand why the Lightning decided in February to tie him to Tampa for two more playoffs after this one.