When Penguins’ GM Ray Shero brought in winger Jarome Iginla — it was assumed that he would be skating alongside captain Sidney Crosby on the top line.
Probably because Iginla had already played with Crosby for Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics (and assisted on Sid’s game-winning Gold Medal goal).
Only problem was — Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz were already playing so well with Crosby that it propelled their line to be the absolute best (when healthy) across the NHL this season.
That — along with Crosby’s untimely broken jaw ultimately placed Iginla with Evgeni Malkin.
Not for nothing — but even if Crosby hadn’t suffered the injury, head coach Dan Bylsma probably was still going to put the 35-year-old Iginla with Malkin.
Am I missing something?
Didn’t Malkin win the Hart Trophy (league MVP) when he was skating with Chris Kunitz and James Neal?
Crosby and Malkin are both superstars — but they play different styles.
Kunitz and Iginla have similar techniques — crashing the net when pucks are put on it — but it’s also how well you can mesh with your line mates.
When Malkin is going full-speed ahead — it’s almost as if you have to keep up with him — but when Crosby’s skating up ice he’s keeping pace with the line and/or buying time if you’re a little behind him.
It’s no secret that Crosby is the NHL’s most prolific player — you can put anybody on his line and the chances of that somebody being just as good as Dupuis and Kunitz were this season are extremely high.
I would even go as far as to say it would be instantaneous success.
From a viewers’ standpoint — you can definitely tell who plays well with who.
So why is Bylsma keeping Iginla with Malkin?
Wouldn’t Iginla be more suited to play with Crosby considering he’s more accustomed to his style of play?
I know that Dupuis and Iginla are both right wingers — but when you’re playing with Crosby, does it honestly even matter?
The first time Pens fans saw Iginla line up with Crosby was when they were entering the 2nd period of Game 5 against the New York Islanders — to which Crosby sequentially scored his sensational split-the-defense goal (assisted from Iginla).
It could be coincidental — but it’s just a little funny how he’s been playing with Malkin for a little over a month and hasn’t had such immediate success.
The players have said before that they will play with whomever Bylsma puts with them, but in order to maintain balanced production, it would be in the teams’ best interest to put “Iggy” with Crosby.
Again — this means Kunitz would play with Malkin.
Kunitz has had an incredible season — arguably his best yet — however, most of his success has come on the power play. In fact, nine of his 22 goals happened with the man-advantage, which ranked third in the entire NHL.
So you aren’t really messing with Kunitz’ game that much by moving him around because he’ll still be on the top power play unit — where he’s had numerous contributions.
This isn’t to say Dupuis hasn’t had a dominant year — but Malkin hasn’t thrived (as much) as when Kunitz is on his line.
And although I still think the Pens need to rearrange their lines other than where Iginla skates — for time’s sake — it would be the most impactful towards the teams’ proficiency.
Game 4 against the Senators in Ottawa is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.