Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis has scored 12 points this season.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pascal Dupuis was named the No. 1 star of the Penguins' 3-1 victory Monday night at Madison Square Garden, and there are several possible explanations for that.
Perhaps the selectors were impressed by his typically ferocious forechecking.
Maybe they liked the part he played in another unblemished performance by the Penguins' penalty-killers.
Or it could be that he was picked almost by default, because none of the big-time talents in that game -- guys such as Sidney Crosby and Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Gaborik -- really put their signature on the evening.
Then again, Dupuis might have been chosen in recognition of a rare feat: Not just that he was the only player on either team to record two points, but that he earned two assists in a game for the first time this season.
The latter might surprise some people, given that Dupuis logs much of his ice time on a line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz, even though Dupuis is not what many would regard as the prototype of a top-line winger.
Specifically, he isn't an elite goal-scorer, the kind who could be penciled in for 40 or 50 if he had Crosby feeding him pucks for an entire winter. Of course, you won't find many -- or maybe any -- of those among the wingers on the Penguins' organizational depth chart.
The lineup has been constructed from the middle out, with much of their payroll tied up in centers, defensemen and No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. There's relatively little money left for top-six wingers, which explains why Evgeni Malkin has spent part of this season at right wing on the No. 2 line.
Dupuis, to be sure, does not have a history of prolific goal-scoring. He has gotten 20 just once in eight full NHL seasons although, with six in 25 games in 2010-11, he's on pace to do it again.
"I'll get my share," Dupuis said. "Obviously, when you play with Sid and Chris Kunitz, you get more room out there. You create more. ... I'm pretty fortunate to play with these guys."
Does that make him the ideal linemate to capitalize on Crosby's playmaking abilities? Hardly. But neither does it mean Dupuis is completely miscast as Crosby's linemate, because there is more to the game than simply scoring goals.
"His speed adds a lot to that line," said assistant coach Tony Granato, who works with the forwards. "His reliability, as far as being a solid two-way player, does [help], because defensively, he's really good. He can play lots of minutes because he's in great shape.
"If you look at every player on your roster and every player in the league, you'll say, 'Yeah, what if he had a little more of this, or a little more of that?' But [Dupuis] gives a lot of different things, and he's very good to have on your bench."
Dupuis actually scored 50 goals in 61 games in his final season with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but accepted long ago that he's a forechecker, not a finisher, and that he'll log a lot more time on the penalty-kill than the power play.
There aren't many headlines and highlights in his kind of game, but that doesn't detract from its value.
"Using his speed, getting in on the forecheck, tracking back into his own end and playing solid defensively so [his linemates] don't have to spend a lot of time in their own end is big," Granato said.
Dupuis said he and Crosby were roommates for two years, giving each of them additional insight on the other.
"I feel comfortable there because he's the kind of guy who makes you feel comfortable," Dupuis said. "From a personal standpoint, we're on the same page.
"He knows my [limitations]. He's not going to ask more. But at the same time, I don't think I'm the kind of guy who takes nights off. He knows I'm busting my rear out there, trying to do my best to help him elevate his game."
Seems to be working, because Crosby will take a 13-game scoring streak into the Penguins' game Thursday against Atlanta. He has 41 points, which is 29 more than his right winger has put up.
Not that everything Dupuis brings to his line is easily quantified.
"Just because he doesn't accumulate a ton of points," Granato said, "doesn't mean he's not effective."
Or even that he can't be a No. 1 star every now and then.