Role Call: What the Pens Need to Win Game Four

Dustin PollackContributor IJune 4, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 02:  Sergei Gonchar#55 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal with teammates Kris Letang #58 during Game Three of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 2, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If the Stanley Cup finals series goes six or seven games, Evgeni Malkin, who sits at 33 points right now, could very well be the first player since Wayne Gretzky (in 1993) to score 40 points in the playoffs.

However, Pens players, coaches, and fans can’t rely only on their big guns to win games for them, especially when Sidney Crosby has only been able to muster one assist in the first three games of the finals.

This series lies deeper than the first line of defense or offense of either team.

I recently wrote a piece which talked about the “unsung heroes” of Detroit, and why the Wings are a modern-day dynasty.

In order for Pittsburgh to be successful in game four tonight, and for the rest of this series, they need those types of unsung heroes—the same types of players that won them game three.

In that game Max Talbot had two goals and was a +2 rating. Talbot has been one of the only role players to show up for the Penguins, tallying six goals and nine points in 20 playoff games.

Although Kris Kunitz isn’t providing anything spectacular offensively, he is making his presence felt physically. In game three Kunitz was credited with 11 hits, only five less than the entire Red Wings team.

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Kris Letang logged nearly 20 minutes of ice on Tuesday night and contributed big with a goal and an assist. If Letang can continue to produce offensively some of the pressure can be taken off offensive star Sergei Gonchar—who the Pens need to step up.

Jordan Staal has not scored a goal in seven games and has tallied only two throughout these playoffs. I understand his job is not necessarily to put pucks in the net, but being a shutdown defensive forward with a -7 rating doesn’t quite cut it.

Tyler Kennedy has established himself as a small, gritty forward who can make things happen offensively as well. But he too has been nearly invisible on the scoresheet, only netting three goals in 20 games these playoffs. Much like Staal, Kennedy’s number one asset to the Pens may not be to score goals, but a -5 rating isn’t what they want out of a defensive forward.

Did anybody know that Philippe Boucher was a part of the Pittsburgh defense? Yes, the same Philippe Boucher that scored 19 goals with Dallas in 2006-2007. Boucher has the ability to produce offensively but simply hasn’t shown up for the Pens, and therefore didn’t even dress for Pittsburgh in game three.

If he’s given another chance he simply needs to help out on the back end.

From Talbot to Boucher, there are some Penguins who just need to continue to play their game, and others who really need to step up.

A loss tonight and the Penguins can waddle onto the golf course early.

check out my blog at www.dustinsdleague.com

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