The Pittsburgh Penguins just didn’t look the same this past season.
Yes, of course, they had added a handful of new players, and there was no alteration in how they finished – another playoff meltdown.
Yet, on the flip side, Pittsburgh might have advanced to the conference finals – at the very least – had Pascal Dupuis been active.
Colliding awkwardly with Sidney Crosby on their second shift of the game against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 23, Dupuis unorthodoxly flailed into the end-boards, and suffered a torn ACL and MCL, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. And to me, his loss was certainly noticeable, given the putrid secondary prowess.
However, now that Dupuis is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014-15 campaign, his availability is going to be a huge boost to the Penguins’ balance.
I cannot stress enough how poorly composed last year’s lineup was. And if you’ve read my articles, you’ve probably read me babbling on-and-on about how Pittsburgh’s pairings were ineffective because of absent parallelism. That awol balance is promptly terminated when Dupuis returns.
While you can never rule out the continuation of his top-line duties, I just find it hard to believe Dupuis will be Crosby’s right-wing guy. And I also figure Dupuis as a bottom-six man anyway, given his age (35), recent injury, and diligent forechecking game; which is why he would make a perfect fit on Brandon Sutter‘s line (third) – at least to start.
There’s been this general consensus that the bottom-six are your character pairings, your backbone, if you will. Dupuis is an absolute beast when it comes to puck-heckling, and does an outstanding job of hounding the opposition, which is what you want your third-line to provide. This is in no way knocking Dupuis’ offensive game; because he has top-six experience, he’ll definitely bring some much needed scoring to the secondary.
Stabilization is what head coach Mike Johnston should aim for when it comes to this lineup, and Dupuis alongside Sutter assures that.
Placing Dupuis on the third-line will also give Sutter that concrete winger he never had last season – or in any of his first two seasons for that matter. Sutter had a phenomenal postseason, and showed signs of truly blossoming into 11th overall pick status. By giving Sutter a dependable winger in Dupuis, you increase the odds of his production twofold because they’ll develop that chemistry needed to flourish.
Again, if Dupuis is slotted on the top-line, so be it, it’s the commencement of the season, and I’m sure Johnston wants to experiment a little from the get-go. However, in the long run, Dupuis’ role should be on the third-line.
Overall, the re-insertion of Dupuis is definitely going to improve cohesiveness; not only because of what he brings, but his leadership as well.
Pittsburgh just needs to find a way to maximize everybody’s efforts.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins