Dupuis quietly thriving for Penguins
Pascal Dupuis knows this isn’t supposed to be happening. Guys
who have spent more than a decade in the NHL aren’t supposed to be
Not at 32. Not when playing on the same team as Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin.
Yet here Dupuis is anyway, in the midst of a career year and a
hot streak normally reserved for his high-profile teammates.
The veteran forward already has set career highs in goals (23)
and points (50) with two weeks remaining in the regular season and
his 10-game point streak – which he extended with a goal and an
assist in a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Sunday – is the longest
active streak in the NHL.
Even better? Pittsburgh is 20-1-1 this season when Dupuis scores
heading into Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
Heady territory for a player known mostly for his heavy slapshot
and persistent forechecking.
The affable Canadian doesn’t think there’s any secret to his
sudden surge. Yes, he’s shooting more than ever, but that’s just
part of the job description when playing for the NHL’s highest
”The more you put on the better chance you have to score,”
Dupuis said. ”That’s what they ask everybody to do to create
Few players have taken advantage of their chances than Dupuis,
perhaps the most adaptable player on the Penguins. He started the
season paired with Malkin and Chris Kunitz then moved to a line
with Crosby during the superstar’s brief return in November.
When Crosby went back on the injured list with concussion-like
symptoms, Dupuis joined Jordan Staal and Steve Sullivan, a
combination that’s proven nearly as effective as the nightly show
being put on by Malkin, Neal and Kunitz.
”We have a little bit of everything on that line,” Dupuis
said. ”Jordan can do anything. Steve is really poised, really
patient. It seems to be working.”
The trio combined for 15 goals during Pittsburgh’s recent
11-game winning streak that thrust the Penguins to within a point
of the New York Rangers for the top spot in the East. Crosby’s
return, however, has let coach Dan Bylsma experiment with his lines
like a mad scientist. Dupuis played alongside the Pittsburgh
captain and Craig Adams for stretches on Sunday after Sullivan came
down with a minor injury.
The shakeup had little impact on Dupuis’ effectiveness. He
pounced on a rebound in the second period and slipped the puck by
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur in the second period to give the
Penguins a two-goal lead they would never relinquish. The score was
Dupuis’ eighth game-winning goal this season, second on the team
behind Malkin and tied for fifth in the league.
”That’s a career let alone one season,” Bylsma said. ”He’s
been outstanding in a lot of different roles for us.”
The Penguins have been relying on that versatility since
acquiring Dupuis in a deadline deal from Atlanta in 2008. He
blended in almost instantly as the Penguins made it to the Stanley
Cup final before falling to Detroit.
His numbers took a tumble when the Penguins won the Cup the
following year, but mostly due to lack of opportunity. Playing time
on a roster loaded with All-Stars was limited though Bylsma praised
Dupuis’ selflessness for not letting his frustration get the best
Dupuis rebounded each of the next two seasons but again had
issues in the postseason. He scored just once in last year’s
first-round loss to Tampa Bay as the Penguins wore down with Crosby
and Malkin both out of the lineup with injuries.
The roster has been more stable this year, with the electric
Malkin putting together an MVP-worthy performance. Dupuis is part
of a second wave of scorers – Kunitz and Staal also recorded their
23rd goals against the Devils and Matt Cooke has a career-high 19 –
that make it difficult for opponents to key in on one line.
It’s a far cry from earlier in his career when Dupuis spent
years grinding away on bad teams in Minnesota and Atlanta. Those
days are long gone in Pittsburgh, and Dupuis has turned himself
into a scoring threat if defenders focus on his more high-profile
Don’t think opposing goaltenders haven’t noticed.
”He hasn’t played on the fourth line all year,” Brodeur said.
”Maybe some years he was bouncing up everywhere and playing
penalty kill, more defensive role. Now these guys are flying and
skating really fast and they’re feeding off this great season and
he’s a part of it.”
It’s a season the Penguins hope to extend until June thanks in
part to an old forward enjoying a surprising renaissance.
”He’s turned himself into a leader in how we play,” Bylsma
said. ”It’s rewarding to see him get those opportunities.”