Two Week Recap; Forwards Edition

In part two of the opening season review we will examine the forwards and their contributions thus far to the season. While some players are keeping to the status quo, a few forwards have started to make their mark on the early season.

Start with the Obvious – The Pittsburgh Penguins top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, and Pascal Dupuis is arguably the strongest line in all of hockey. They have a combined nine goals through six games, seven of which have come while playing five on five hockey.

Here are a few other stats to show how good this line has been. *All statistics are a combined total.

+ 10, 56 shots on net, 24 total points, 8 Takeawas, 28 Hits, 87 Faceoffs won out of 156 for 55.7%

Once again this line has set the bar for overall performance on this club. Of course a lot of this has to do with the teams captain Sidney Crosby. He leads the league in points with 12, averaging two points per contest. His 5 goals on the season are good for third in the league. With his overall play continuing to improve, Crosby could possibly be on his way to a second Hart Trophy.

Injuries Plaguing Malkin – While Evgeni Malkin is healthy this season, his wingers are not. James Neal played just one period of hockey this season before being placed on IR with an upper body injury. Neal is Malkin’s go to guy when on the ice and his lack of presence can be seen in Malkin’s game. Despite averaging a point per game thus far, Malkin looks to be a bit out of sync and is hesitant to shoot the puck.

Beau Bennett looked to fill in the role left by Neal, but as of Saturday he was listed as day to day with an undisclosed injury. Bennett is hoping to return by the weekend, if not Thursday, and if so he will be placed back on Malkin’s wing with Jussi Jokinen.

The newly signed Chuck Kobasew is filling in nicely for Bennett in the time being, but is not a top 6 winger anymore. With no timetable for James Neal it is the Penguins hope that Bennett misses just the one game.

No Time To Gel – With the injuries to the team’s second line, the third line has been in constant flux. Through six games this season the third line has had five different players. Taking part in this role has been Bennett, Brandon Sutter (the only constant on this line), Dustin Jeffery, Chuck Kobasew, and Harry Zolnierczyk. The line has only produced two goals this season and both came from Kobasew who scored them in the first two games. It is important that this line gets some consistency for they will be a crucial asset against the league’s top teams.

Fourth Line Magic – Arguably the biggest shock of the season is the tremendous play of the Penguins fourth line. With four goals on the season, three from Craig Adams and one from Tanner Glass, the fourth line of the Penguins has been very effective.

They have a combined 39 hits on the season and have spent time playing with the likes of Crosby and Malkin on a few occasions. Coach Bylsma even rewarded Glass and Adams for the strong season thus far by starting them with Evgeni Malkin against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Adams showed how happy he was by instantly dropping the gloves with Ryan Malone.

Tanner Glass has been a new man to start this season as well. Coming into the season in much better shape, Glass had profited well from a full training camp. He is skating faster and playing within the system in a much better fashion. Craig Adams already has three goals on the season, half way to his best scoring season as a Penguin, and logs an incredible average of 2:37 shorthanded per game.

If the forward core is able to get the likes of Matt D’Agostini, James Neal, and Beau Bennett healthy, the Penguins could once again find themselves atop the Eastern Conference. While it is too soon to make any of these predictions, the Penguins certainly look like a Stanley Cup contender once again.