If any player was to take over a game, Mike Rupp wouldn’t be the first to come to mind.
Pittsburgh Penguins 5 — New York Rangers 2
Although, his recent play suggests maybe it should.
Rupp and Sidney Crosby combined to score five goals Monday night in a 5-2 win in New York — Rupp with a hat trick and Crosby adding two. The display showcased why the Pittsburgh Penguins are atop the Eastern Conference standings after 28 games: secondary scoring.
And it’s not just Rupp. He’s joined by a host of other third- and fourth-liners that have contributed consistently so far this season.
While Rupp has been the most surprising offensive contributor this year, guys like Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis and Martin Skoula have been equally as surprising in their point totals.
Cooke, who sat out Monday’s game after being suspended for a blow to the head in Saturday’s game at home against the Rangers, has tallied five goals and added seven assists. That put him sixth on the team behind Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin, Alex Goligoski and Jordan Staal, going in to Monday’s game.
Not bad company.
Dupuis has lit the lamp seven times this year, which puts him on pace for the highest goal total of his career — 20 goals in the 2002-03 season with Minnesota. Accordingly, Skoula has tallied three goals from the blue line, which came while he was filling in during a rash of defensive injuries.
You can add Tyler Kennedy’s name to the list as well. He’s played in just 14 games but has scored six times. A goal every other game is above and beyond what a coach can ask for from a third-line winger.
But that’s what the Penguins have and Dan Bylsma’s system plays to that strength. When the supporting cast can score like they currently are, it opens avenues for Crosby (5 goals, 3 assists in last two games) and Malkin (plus-6 in his last five games) to flourish.
Sounds like a scenario that’s tough to beat.
Chris | PPT