Quick – who currently ranks second on the team in goals?
It has to be Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin or Jordan Staal, right? Maybe Pascal Dupuis?
No, it’s Mike Rupp.
Yeah, it’s the guy the Penguins signed in the off-season to be – what many thought at the time – a fourth-liner, a grinder, a tough guy to help give Eric Godard’s knuckles an occasional breather.
Well, Rupp’s turned out to be much, much more, and Pittsburgh should be grateful.
While he certainly adds to the team’s overall toughness and is a constant physical presence on the ice, he now has a career-high 9 goals after scoring Monday night in the Pens’ loss to Carolina. His previous high was 6 three seasons ago.
No one could have realistically expected this kind of offensive output from Rupp at this point in the season. I’m not sure the 6’5″ winger could have expected it himself.
And not only is Rupp putting the puck in the net, he’s proved to be extremely versatile. He plays on the fourth line with Craig Adams and Godard one shift, with Sidney Crosby on the top line the next. One shift he’s burying an opponent with a crushing body check, the next he’s scoring on a sweet individual effort.
Having a tough guy who can score – and fill multiple roles – is a luxury no one is ever going to complain about. Quite simply, those players are hard to come by.
A former first-round pick, it is readily apparent is more skilled than your typical NHL tough guy. Nonetheless, he had 16 fights (and 136 penalty minutes) last year for the Devils and has 31 over the past three seasons. He’s fought four times so far this year.
Everyone in the league knows Rupp isn’t afraid to drop the gloves if necessary. Now they’re finding out he can contribute offensively as well. (By the way, his 24.3% shooting percentage leads the team.)
There’s no doubt Rupp has played a large part in the Penguins’ impressive 21-10-1 start. And there’s also no question he’s capable of doing whatever it takes to help the team succeed the rest of the way.