Which Pittsburgh Penguins Offensive Star Has Had the Best Postseason?
As the highest-scoring team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had no shortage of offensive heroes thus far in the postseason.
While Penguin fans have come to expect big goals from the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, some of the biggest goals of the playoffs have been scored by Tyler Kennedy, Beau Bennett and Brooks Orpik; each of whom has tallied game-winning goals.
With the Penguins one win away from advancing past the second round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, here's a look at the biggest offensive stars for the Penguins thus far:
Third Star: Evgeni Malkin
While his lack of goal scoring and questionable play at the end of regulation in Game 4 against Ottawa have drawn criticism, the fact remains that Evgeni Malkin is quietly having an outstanding postseason.
Sharing the team lead in playoff points (14) with Sidney Crosby, Malkin has performed the role of playmaker during this playoff run and leads the NHL with 11 postseason assists. Considering that his linemates, James Neal and Jarome Iginla, have both struggled offensively and have combined for only seven goals in 10 games, Malkin's numbers should be even better.
Even though he only has three goals thus far in the playoffs, it is not for lack of effort. Through 10 games, Malkin leads the Penguins with 44 shots on goal and has twice registered 10 shots on goal in one game. In Game 6 against the Islanders, Malkin's willingness to take the puck to the net resulted in Paul Martin's game-tying goal and Brooks Orpik's game-winning goal in overtime.
Given his postseason heroics in the past, it is only a matter of time before Evgeni Malkin begins to find the back of the net again. When he does, the Penguins will be even more dominant offensively than they have been at times thus far in the playoffs.
Second Star: Chris Kunitz
Although his playoff stats may not be as impressive as his more-celebrated teammates, Chris Kunitz continues to make big plays at key moments and has been one of the Penguins' top performers thus far in the playoffs.
Having led the Pens in goals during the regular season, the first time someone other than Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby has done so since 2005, Kunitz was already having a career year with 52 points in 48 games. So far in the playoffs, he has continued to shine and tallied four goals and five assists in 10 games including three power-play goals.
Willing to do the dirty work in front of the net and in the corners, Kunitz has become an indispensable part of the Pens' attack both at even strength and on the power play. Having scored five game-winning goals in the regular season, he has added another in the playoffs and turned the tide in Game 4 against Ottawa with a breakaway goal to tie the game.
As the Penguins look to close out the Senators and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, they will need Chris Kunitz to continue to be the tireless worker and clutch goal scorer he has been so far in the playoffs.
First Star: Sidney Crosby
Before the start of the playoffs, many wondered if Sidney Crosby's month-long absence due to injury would have a negative effect on his play. Given his play thus far in the playoffs, it most definitely has not.
With seven goals and seven assists through nine games, Crosby has picked up right where he left off. Playing alongside Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, Crosby has centered the top line in the playoffs which has accounted for 18 of the Penguins' 41 playoff goals.
As the team captain, Crosby has also led the way by example with his work ethic even in the face of adversity. In the three games following a Penguins' playoff loss, he has two goals and five assists.
Having been denied the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer by an injury, Sidney Crosby is the early favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP and has been the Penguins' top-offensive star so far in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.