Winning is as Simple as Depth
In many ways the Pittsburgh Penguins can be considered a star studded cast. Teams such as Chicago, Philly, Washington, and Detroit boast a lineup of great talent. These teams are winners for one reason though, depth. Depth is what wins championships, depth is what every team needs, and this season the Pens so called depth players are rising into stardom.
For many years they have been lucky to have a third line center that was offensively respected and defensively feared in Jordan Staal. His play over the years has earned him a selke nomination, league wide respect for one of the best penalty killers, and mostly a Stanley Cup, but now there is a new aspect to the big centers game, goal scoring.
Last season Staal was out for 40 games, yet in his return he was able to score 11 goals and have 30 points. It set him on pace for a 22 goal season and 60 points, a career high point total for the young center. This season Staal has already managed to score 12 goals in 22 games. He is on pace for about 40 goals this season and a point total of roughly 67. With his excellent two way play and leadership skills, Staal is slowly evolving into a star. His big reach and body size has always been used to ward off offensive players, but now he has developed a great power move. Staal is already a great penalty killer and strong two way forward, but if his offensive game continues to grow, the Penguins two headed monster of Crosby and Malkin will quickly become a three headed nightmare.
The other end to this depth play is that of Pascal Dupuis. Most people that don’t pay attention in depth wouldn’t think much of Dupuis. He was a player tossed into the Marian Hossa deal four years ago. He is a solid forward that kills penalties, plays both wings and center, and is consistently one of the best locker room guys on the club. He signed a deal this past summer for two seasons for about 1.6 million a season and as of now he is vastly underpaid. Dupuis has already accumulated 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points. At a similar pace he could reach the 60 to 65 point mark, smashing his career high of 48 points. His goal total could possibly reach 24 goals, also a career high. With his excellent penalty killing and breakneck speed, Dupuis is as versatile as it gets. He plays mostly on the top line with Crosby, but can be seen on all four lines without any slack in chemistry or effort.
Depth is not just at forward though. Depth is needed on the blue line as well. While point totals are what many consider depth, the blue line doesn’t have to be all about points. Matt Niskanen has just one goal and five points on the season, yet he is a plus 9 on the season and is quietly playing exceptional hockey. His defensive stick work has become his strong suit. As a smaller blueliner he doesn’t possess the size or strength needed to stop big time forwards. His stick work has led to a solid defensive zone presence, while his speed and shot continue to be a threat in the offensive zone. His play is not spectacular, but when one speaks of depth, solid play is great appreciated.
The Penguins might not be the deepest team in the league, they might not be the most talented, but as of right now they are working well with the talent they carry. The Penguins have built a team of stars aided by the perfect complement of role players. The role players aid their game, they compliment them without hindering them, and they play to win not for press. Recognizing great play on every line is something that needs to be done and right now the Penguins depth players, the three noted above, are playing exceptionally well.