Despite being suspended five games for kneeing Boston Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand, Pens’ forward James Neal is having a tremendous season.
Playing in just 16 games so far, the 26-year-old has 20 points (10G, 10A) – which is an average of 1.25 points-per-game – and is ranked third on the team for goals scored. Collecting eight multiple-point games and producing eight goals over the last eight contests, Neal will enter his next matchup on a four-game point streak (3G, 3A) as well.
Last season, Neal sported a dark-tinted visor and this season he’s gone back to a clear one. Not to say he didn’t put up solid numbers for the 2012-13 campaign, but he wasn’t as explosive as he is this season. So could the visor change be attributed to how well he is playing?
Now, we still have the rest of the season to evaluate him, but so far I think the change has certainly impacted his effectiveness. The exact reason as to why he made the switch is unknown; however, due to his lack of consistency in the second half of last season, Neal might have altered his ice-vision because of that.
In the final 13 games of last season, Neal compiled only seven points (4G, 3A), and besides his onslaught in the second-round of the postseason against the Ottawa Senators, he disappeared for the other two rounds. He failed to register a point in the Eastern Conference Final against Boston, and he scored one goal against the New York Islanders in the first-round.
Of course, he wasn’t the only one who had problems in the third-round against Boston, but his overall performance is what disturbed me. For how prolific he is, there’s no reason as to why he couldn’t produce at a high-rate, with all the prominent players that surround him.
There aren’t a lot of players in the NHL that can work with a dark visor, which is why it’s rarely donned by anybody. And perhaps now that Neal has converted back to using the clear visor, he just might have ignited his play.
Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to hold back his emotions and won’t return until Dec. 19 when the team takes on the Minnesota Wild. With the way he’s playing, it’s discouraging to know the team will play the Devils, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, and Rangers without him – because of how important those contests are.
Whatever the cause is for his play this season, we know he’s at least seeing more “clearly.”
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins