A player that doesn’t get enough credit for his play on the the Pittsburgh Penguins is forward Joe Vitale, who fuels the fourth-line’s intensity game-to-game.
Scratched on-and-off last season, Vitale is making the most of his opportunities this year.
Although his production might mislead (six points in 26 games), he sets the tone for Pittsburgh’s fourth-line, and provides a formidable forecheck for the team. Bringing the speed and tenacity into each game, Vitale’s style of play is exactly what Pittsburgh’ needs.
Nothing against forward Craig Adams, who’s arguably the most important player to Pittsburgh on the last-line, but Vitale doesn’t receive the recognition that Adams’ does. Often viewed as a leader because of his experience in the league, Adams’ resume leads fans to thinking he’s the player the fourth-line needs, but Vitale is just as valuable.
A fantastic go-to-the-net talent, Vitale, although he may not produce points in bunches, gives the team sufficient scoring chances every contest. Skating to a plus-1 on the season so far, Vitale has improved his puck management greatly and cut back on the turnovers – which is vastly benefiting the team.
He’s a fierce competitor who will get into those “dirty areas,” and when the team has needed a jumpstart for a sluggish performance, Vitale has been there. A catalyst in boosting the team’s perseverance, Vitale’s contributions, in my opinion, should allow him to keep his role as the fourth-line center the entire season.
Despite the fact that forwards’ Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass, and Chuck Kobasew will eventually return to action, the team has to strongly consider playing Vitale on a nightly basis. Inevitably, the Pens’ are most likely going to give Vitale a rest-game, and that’s understandable, but they shouldn’t make it a habit to sit-him.
A great team player, Vitale means a lot more to the Pens’ than perceived. He’s improved his game tremendously – playing every contest as if it’s his last, dishing out heavy-hits, and bothering opposing skaters. The comparison is probably slightly irrational, but he almost reminds me of the way forward Matt Cooke used to play when he was on the team.
Cooke caused a lot more mayhem than Vitale, however, the peskiness is prominent in both of them. And while Vitale may not get noticed as much on Pittsburgh, opposing players definitely are aware of him.
Forward Evgeni Malkin certainly is turning heads with his onslaught of late, but let’s not forget about Vitale, whose been a huge part of the Pens’ success this season.