Chris Kunitz Key to Pittsburgh Penguins' Turnaround

Scott BarnerContributor IMarch 18, 2009

The Penguins have certainly turned their season around.

There are a few reasons for their resurgence.  One is the return of Gonchar.  The other was the trade that brought Chris Kunitz to the Penguins.

By adding just one player, many of the Penguins' needs were addressed.  In Kunitz, the Pens found a winger who can play on the top two lines.

More importantly, they found a player who plays north and south, something the Penguins were quite inconsistent at this season.  Kunitz also is a presence in front of the net.  He parks himself in front of the opposing goaltender and makes plays happen. 

Kunitz is quick and plays smart. He isn't afraid to go into the corners and get his nose dirty. 

It appears his presence has breathed life into other players as well.  Jordan Staal has been playing up to the potential that is expected of him.

That started to happen when Kunitz first joined the Pens and played on Staal's line. They showed instant chemistry. Staal seemed to play and be inspired.  He is now a physical force and is playing a more open style of hockey.

Kunitz has also quickly become a crowd favorite as well.  He plays that hard-nosed style of hockey that Penguins fans appreciate. He seems to be a throwback to the old days of hockey, when players were not afraid to sacrifice the body.

Kudos to Ray Shero for redeeming himself from the disasters he brought into the Penguins lineup at the beginning of this year.  The addition of Kunitz and Guerin was just what the doctor ordered. 

Chris Kunitz is the right player for the style of hockey Bylsma wants to see.  He can fit on any line and gives you his best every night.  Thanks to him being with the Pens, they now have a legitimate chance for a nice run to the Cup.