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Pittsburgh Penguins Top Line Firing on All Cylinders

December 20th, 2013 at 11:13 AM
By Andrew Brown

Joe Sargent/NHLI

The Pittsburgh Penguins suffer a injury to one of their two top stars and the other turns into a monster and terrorizes the league. You've heard this one before, right? Usually, it's Sidney Crosby who gets hurt and Evgeni Malkin becomes the scourge of the NHL. That's how it was in 2007-2008 and in 2011-2012. But the script is filled in 2013-2014. Malkin's dealing with a nagging lower-body injury that's sidelined him for the past two games. It's a little brash to say, but with the way the first line is playing the Penguins don't miss him- ah! . . . will let him take all the time he needs to heal.

Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis are destroying the league like a kid playing his grandfather in Mortal Kombat. The facts are in the numbers and boy those numbers are crazy good. Crosby has scored a point in every December game so far. That translates into fifteen points (six goals, nine assists) in nine games. The twelfth month has been equally impressive for Chris Kunitz who has ten points (six goals, four assists). Also riding a high is Dupuis. After a terrible start to season, Dupuis's troubles are fleeing with his current three-game point streak and six points this month. Dupuis is starting to gain traction and that is a great sign for the veteran and the Pens. The trio also sport healthy plus/minus ratings (Kunitz leads the line with a plus-17) and have played in all thirty-seven games. So you see, these guys are going hard.

Their brilliant was fully displayed in two of the Penguins five goals last night against the Minnesota Wild. In the first minute of the game, Olli Maatta handcuffed Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom with a wrist-shot. The top line swarmed the crease like black and Vegas gold hornets. Kunitz knocked in the rebound for his nineteenth goal of the year. His twentieth came in the second frame from a beautiful backhanded pass from Crosby along the boards. Kunitz flew to the net and Sidney's insane pass was miraculously right on his stick's tape.

Crosby said of the play, "With [Kunitz], you always know he's going to be around the net. I ended up seeing some space there and he's able to get to the net pretty quick, but that's where he's going to be. So, he's going to score a lot of goals around there, and I was happy we were able to capitalize."

That kind of chemistry cannot be taught. It is weaved together over seasons of playing with each other. The Penguins are enjoying the trio's success and if Hockey Canada is smart, so will they in February.

Duspuis said of the victory, "Sometimes you just get right back at it. Even though we got in late from New York last night, we felt pretty great at the start. I don’t know. Just one of those nights that we took it to them.”

This month has been one of the those nights that they took it to them. The longer the top line plays this dominate, the more time they buy for Geno and the others to heal. Ideally they will fizzle out when the second line starts to blaze. Or maybe the top two lines will burn at the same time? Now that's a horror book the NHL doesn't want to open. They're content getting smashed by Crosby and company for now.

Tags: Chris Kunitz, Hockey, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

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