Penguins spread scoring wealth in playoffs
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are on pace to exceed their goal-scoring totals from last year's Stanley Cup championship run, but to suggest the Penguins are relying strictly on their superstars is misleading.
That's not even the half of it.
While Crosby and Malkin have combined for nine of the Penguins' 24 goals — a mark that leads all remaining Eastern Conference playoff teams through the first round of the playoffs — 10 others also tallied. That includes one forward who went without a goal in the postseason last year.
"It shows that, yes, Sid and Geno will get their points, will get their goals, but at the same time other guys are having to chip in," said winger Pascal Dupuis, who scored the Game 6 overtime winner Saturday at Ottawa after going scoreless in the playoffs last year. "Everybody is getting goals and chipping in. It shows how our team can be in the playoffs."
That the Penguins have 12 different goal scorers in six games has been a source of their success, which they don't believe came by accident. Crosby was co-winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy with 51 goals, but was one of 13 Penguins players with double-digit goal totals in the regular season.
"You don't make it very far this time of year unless everyone is contributing," Crosby said.
Of the 10 remaining playoff teams entering Tuesday night's Detroit-Phoenix game, only Vancouver has scored more goals (25) than the Penguins, and the Canucks join Phoenix as the only other team with as many goal-scorers as the Penguins. Buffalo also had 12, but it was eliminated by Boston.
"It's a good sign of a good team game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's not just good players scoring goals and being individuals. It's team. I think it's easy to say at different times of the year to say that (Nos.) 71 and 87 had X-amount of the percentage of the points, but they're going to be out there for the power-play points and they're going to get their points."
What opponents haven't counted on is the production of winger Matt Cooke, who has three goals after scoring only one in the playoffs last year. Or defenseman Kris Letang, whose two goals against Ottawa are one shy of his regular-season total. And especially not forward Craig Adams, who went all season without a goal and then tallied in Game 1.
"I like to think that it's probably more than just chance that some guys are scoring goals," Bylsma said, noting that Cooke had 15 this season and scored twice in Game 6 by working his way into point-blank range.
The Penguins were one of five teams that averaged three-plus goals a game in the regular season, ranking behind only Washington (3.82), Vancouver (3.27), Chicago (3.20) and San Jose (3.13). It's no coincidence that three of those teams advanced to the conference semifinals, and Washington can join them with a Game 7 victory tonight over Montreal.
What has impressed Bylsma is the manner in which the goals have been scored, most notably that of Dupuis, whose tally came in a rush after Jordan Staal worked the puck below the goal line to create the opportunity.
"It's a pretty good offensive team, and being fifth in the league in goals proves that," Bylsma said. "When you play that way and get to your game in the playoffs, you give everyone a chance to be a hero. I get excited when you win a Game 6 like that and we get one assist from Crosby or Malkin."
Cooke noted that the more the Penguins spread out their goal scoring, "the less pressure any one individual feels." That could speak well for Crosby and Malkin, considering Crosby led the NHL with 15 playoff goals last season and Malkin won the Conn Smythe with a league-best 36 points.
Even better news: the Penguins had 16 different goal-scorers in 24 playoff games on the way to the Cup championship, but still have yet to get goals this postseason from power-play quarterback Sergei Gonchar or forwards such as Tyler Kennedy, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp.
In that case, there might be even more scoring to come.
"It's part of having a good team and having the depth in this lineup," Staal said. "It's always nice to see everyone chipping in and contributing. Whether it happens or not, as long as we find ways to win, then I don't think it really matters who's scoring the goals."
The Penguins must wait until Wednesday to learn their next playoff opponent, but they are guaranteed home-ice advantage in Round 2.
The top-seeded Washington Capitals lost Monday night at Montreal and must play the No. 8 Canadiens in a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday night at Washington.
A Washington win would send the No. 6 Boston Bruins to Mellon Arena for Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Penguins. The Bruins eliminated the No. 3 Buffalo Sabres on Monday night with a win at Boston.
A Washington loss would bring the Montreal Canadians to Mellon Arena for Games 1 and 2 of a second-round series against the Penguins.