When you play on a team as talented as the Pittsburgh Penguins, it can be pretty tough to make a name for yourself, especially when you have perennial superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin taking most of the spotlight, but Chris Kunitz is a player who is hard not to notice this season for the Pens.
Kunitz earned first star honours in Pittsbugh’s 5-2 win over the Rangers on Friday and it was well-deserved as he recorded two goals and added an assist to go along with three hits and close to 19 minutes of ice time.
Sure, Crosby and Malkin are the big guns for the Penguins and players such as James Neal and Pascal Dupuis are nothing to sneeze at offensively, but Kunitz is having a career year and is a major threat on a dangerous Pittsburgh squad.
The Regina, Sk. native currently sits tied atop the team lead in goals with Crosby at 23; he’s ranked first in the league in plus-minus at plus 23 and he has 11 power play goals, which is second to only Alex Ovechkin in all of the NHL. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a player who went undrafted.
Kunitz has always had the ability to put the puck in the net, frequently scoring 20 goals a campaign (he’s done it six times including this season), he’s always been a big plus-minus guy (he was a plus 30 last season) and he’s been outstanding on the power play across his career (63 career power play goals to his credit). He also has a knack for coming up in the clutch scoring four game winning goals so far this season and finishing sixth in the league last season with five, but this year he’s been unreal.
Now it doesn’t look like the Penguins need a lot of help to stay atop the Metropolitan division, but where could they potentially have been in the standings this year without Kunitz?
Yes, Crosby has shown in the past that he can carry a team, but Pittsburgh has seen an abundance of injuries hit them over the course of the season, with notable scoring threats such as Malkin and Neal both losing several games and it’s been Kunitz, along with Crosby, who has been there to aid the team’s potential scoring woes with timely goals, like the one below.
If Kunitz continues on the tear that he’s been on, he won’t just be someone to keep your eye on; he could become the team’s deadliest weapon in the playoffs while teams spend too much time focussing on Crosby, Malkin or Neal and surely the Pens don’t care who puts the puck in the net as long as they win a championship.