Kunitz brings out best in Penguins' stars
PHILADELPHIA — The Penguins' front office long has flirted with the idea of acquiring a high-scoring winger to play with Sidney Crosby, offering Marian Hossa, Jaromir Jagr and Zach Parise contracts.
Turns out, Crosby has had his winger all along.
Left wing Chris Kunitz brings out the best in Crosby and is producing statistics worthy of playing alongside a star.
“This is new territory for me,” Kunitz said with a smile, referring to his ranking third in the NHL in scoring with 31 points, behind only Crosby and Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos. “It's nice to be rewarded.”
The lofty statistics might be new for Kunitz but bringing out the best in the Penguins' two stars is not.
Most of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's most noteworthy achievements have come with Kunitz on their respective left wings.
• Crosby led all playoff scorers with 15 goals when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Kunitz played on his wing that spring.
• Crosby scored more than 50 goals in a season for the first time during the 2009-10 season with Kunitz as a linemate.
• Crosby produced an eye-popping 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games before getting injured halfway through the 2010-11 season, with Kunitz, again, playing on his left wing.
• Malkin won his first Hart Trophy (MVP) and claimed his second scoring title last season, putting up 109 points. His new left wing last season was Kunitz.
• Crosby is showing signs of running away with the scoring race this season and leads all scorers with 39 points at the halfway mark of the 48-game season. Kunitz is back on his left wing.
“He has a consistency about him,” Crosby said. “He just does so many little things, maybe things that people don't always realize. He has the ability to create space for you. He is so good on the forecheck, and he's got that ability to use it to force turnovers and to open things up for me. And you know he's always going to the net.”
That fearlessness has paid off in bushels of “garbage goals” throughout his career. He had five goals waved off last season for making himself a little too comfortable in the goaltender's crease.
Although that facet of his game doesn't figure to change, Kunitz is scoring in different ways this season. His game-winner Thursday in Philadelphia came on a two-on-one rush with Crosby, and he has buried a number of shots from the high slot. Kunitz, like never before, is scoring “goal-scorers” goals, with Crosby frequently locating him for one-timers.
“They are finding that pass,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “They work on it in practice.”
In fact, they had a few months to work on it.
Crosby and Kunitz were regulars for informal workouts at Southpointe during the NHL lockout. They skated on the same line during daily scrimmages. The chemistry shows.
“I attribute all or most of my success to playing with him,” Kunitz said.
Still, Kunitz believes he and Pascal Dupuis are perfectly suitable linemates for Crosby.
“I think we always (feel that way),” Kunitz said. “We don't change our game. That makes for a consistent line. There are areas where (general manager Ray Shero) can try to get better as a team. If that happens, that happens. That's not our concern.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Lovejoy embracing defensive pairing with Pouliot
- Penguins notebook: Road trip increases in difficulty
- Crosby, Malkin chase scoring title amid defense-minded league
- Penguins notebook: Crosby says he would play goal if needed
- Penguins eye move for former center Staal
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Penguins notebook: Team exercising caution with Ehrhoff’s return from concussion
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return
- Crosby fights, Penguins lose to Blue Jackets