Compliments for the Captain
There are significant questions that remain about the roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of the recent free-agent feeding frenzy.
However, if there’s one question that Ray Shero has the answer to, it’s his top line.
Wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis figure to remain on the sides of captain Sidney Crosby through the 2016-17 season.
With 7.45 million dollars tied up between the two of them, the Penguins have a gritty, physical solution to the “winger for Crosby” clamor that seems to have existed since Crosby was drafted.
Not a bad deal financially when you consider that Alex Semin makes .4 less than that.
While the signings may lack the flash and fanfare of some other heavy-duty contracts that were handed out in the recent weeks, Penguins fans should rest easy with this trio.
After all, statistically speaking, there wasn’t anyone better than them in the 2012-13 season.
Noting that Crosby missed 12 regular-season games with a broken jaw to end the season, the unit comprised of Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis still lead the NHL in even strength line production.
Ending the season with 31 goals, they edged out the Eric Staal unit in Carolina (30), and the Andrew Ladd unit in Winnipeg (28).
All this despite the fact that Crosby’s line gave the rest of the league a 12 game cushion.
The great thing about the Crosby line is it replaces lights from a marquee with sandpaper from the hardware store.
What Dupuis and Kunitz lack in star power, they make up for in the dirty areas of the ice. And as we’ve come to learn in the last two years, they also have a penchant for finding the back of the net.
When you play with a superstar like Sidney Crosby, perhaps the worlds best play-maker, the name of the game is to open up space and wait.
The puck is going to find you eventually.
And with 42 goals provided from both Kunitz and Dupuis in the truncated 48 game season, it’s safe to say they’ve done just that.
There isn’t a statistic that tracks reliability in the NHL, but it’s important to note that both Dupuis and Kunitz have played in every possible regular season game in the last two years.
With familiarity comes comfort, and years of playing with Sidney Crosby are starting to make their mark on the Penguins and the NHL as a whole.
Let’s take a look at some important statistical categories and how each member of this line stacks up among the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins based on last year’s numbers.
Points Per 60 Minutes of Even Strength Ice Time
1. Crosby – 4.19
2. Kunitz – 3.16
3. Dupuis – 2.65
(This statistic tracks all attempts at shooting a puck on net, including missed shots, blocks, saves, posts, etc.)
1. Dupuis – 221
5. Crosby – 138
6. Kunitz – 136
(On-ice player Corsi minus off-ice player Corsi. Essentially, this number means the team launches x amount more shots on net when a specific player is on the ice as opposed to on the bench.)
2. Kunitz – 20.9
3. Crosby – 20.3
5. Dupuis – 12.8
But it’s not just all offense from these guys, check out these defensive numbers.
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes of Ice Time
1. Kunitz – 1.74
3. Dupuis – 2.00
6. Crosby – 2.25
The Penguins lifeblood lies in the top lines ability to generate shooting chances, eat up ice time, and believe it or not, prevent goals.
A lot of things went wrong in the Boston series, this line going quiet was one of them. The Pittsburgh Penguins have the pieces for success in place, now it’s about execution.
While these statistics may not be uncommon for the top line of a team, the Penguins have a below-market value on two guys that haven’t missed a regular season game in two years. They play the game the way Dan Bylsma demands it.
The bottom line is that no forward group scored at such an alarming pace at even strength last season. And, for the time being, Penguins fans can expect and enjoy more of the same.
It seems that, finally, the “winger for Crosby” debate can be put to bed. And it can be put to bed to the tune of 4.81 goals every 60 minutes of even strength ice time.