Dupuis' absence taking toll on Penguins' production
Through almost a half-season, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were enjoying campaigns in which their even-strength production was outpacing what they'd done throughout their careers.
Since Christmas, though, there's been a noticeable dropoff.
It's not a coincidence.
Since a torn ACL sustained early in a game at Ottawa on Dec. 23 ended Pascal Dupuis' season, the even-strength points-per-game for his linemates on the Penguins' top line have dropped 21 percent.
“We haven't tried to — and I don't think you're going to — replace what Pascal brings to our team,” coach Dan Bylsma said, while at the same time noting that the Penguins' record without Dupuis has been “really good.”
That's largely true. The Penguins averaged 1.41 standings points in games Dupuis has appeared in this season, and that number has dropped just to 1.38 since Dupuis has been out. Even the team's offense (3.21 goals per game before the 5-0 loss to Ottawa in which Dupuis was injured; 3.18 after), on whole, hasn't sputtered.
But instead of the line of Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis leading the way, it's the Evgeni Malkin-James Neal-Jussi Jokinen line shouldering the offensive load. During calendar year 2014, Malkin, Neal and Jokinen have accounted for 24 goals and 54 points. The total of the 24 other skaters whom the Penguins have used? Thirty-six goals and 105 points.
The “bottom six” forwards are receiving most of the blame for that, but the Crosby line isn't scoring the way it used to five-on-five, either.
Before taking the ice Dec. 23 against the Senators — Dupuis was injured early in that game — Crosby and Kunitz were averaging a combined 1.55 even-strength points per game. While playing with Brian Gibbons and others, Crosby and Kunitz's even-strength production has slipped to 1.23 points per game. The situation appears to be deteriorating, too. At even strength, Crosby and Kunitz have combined for two points — both Crosby assists — in the past seven games.
“He's been a huge loss for our team,” Kunitz said of Dupuis. “Not only on our line, it's our penalty kill and our locker room. He's a guy who's always a fun-loving, spirited guy. … A great teammate.”
Individually, Crosby's even-strength points-per-game this season has fallen 22 percent and Kunitz's 21 percent since the game Dupuis left the ice with torn knee ligaments.
Crosby was at a .92 points-per-game pace at even strength before then; he's down to .73 after. Kunitz has dropped from .63 to .50.
“They're gonna come,” Crosby said assuredly, referring to Kunitz's points. Kunitz doesn't have a point since Jan. 30. “He trusts his game and we do, too, so I wouldn't be surprised if he started putting them in.”
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.