Dupuis was best at setting bests
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Winger Pascal Dupuis ran out of season before he could find out just how long his points streak might have stretched. As it was, his 17-game run was the longest in the NHL in 2011-12 and the third-longest in Penguins history.
Dupuis was the team's poster child for setting career bests, in part because he put together his resume-toppers -- 25 goals, 34 assists, 59 points, 8 winning goals, 214 shots, a plus-18 plus-minus rating and that scoring streak -- despite turning 33 Saturday, the day the Penguins closed the regular season with a 4-2 victory against Philadelphia.
"It's always good to be part of a winning recipe, to contribute, be one of the guys who is producing," Dupuis said.
There's a theory that teams that win championships, or at least get close, do it when several players have career years. Who knows if the Penguins will repeat their Stanley Cup run of 2009? They begin the quest Wednesday with a first-round, best-of-seven series against the Flyers at Consol Energy Center.
- Game: Penguins vs. Flyers.
- When: 7:38 p.m. Wednesday.
- Where: Consol Energy Center.
- TV: Root Sports, NBCSN.
But they have a lineup that reached a lot of new heights.
From Evgeni Malkin's 50 goals to James Neal's 40, from Jordan Staal's 51.0 winning faceoff percent to Brooks Orpik's plus-19 rating.
"We had a great year, team-wise, and a lot of players had career highs in a lot of different areas," Staal said. "We put up a lot of numbers, and it's great to have all those individual achievements."
Staal also had a career-high five power-play goals and -- thanks to two assists Saturday -- reached 50 points for the first time after getting to 49 in '08-'09 and '09-'10.
"I've had  twice and now I'm fortunate enough to make it there this year, with a few less games as well," said Staal, who missed 20 games because of a knee injury and other problems.
For a couple of defensemen, this season wasn't so much about career numbers as it was reaching a breakthrough level.
Matt Niskanen's first two seasons in Dallas were strong, with 26 and 36 points in '07-'08 and '08-'09, respectively, and great expectations for his future. He sagged a bit after that, but recaptured his game in this, his first full season with the Penguins.
His four goals, 17 assists, 21 points weren't career bests -- although his three power-play goals and 118 shots were -- but Niskanen re-established himself as a solid NHL regular.
Deryk Engelland had a different sort of breakthrough. He set lots of career highs -- 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points, 86 shots, 122 hits, 77 blocked shots and a plus-10 -- but, then, there wasn't a large pool for comparison because this was only his second full NHL season and first as an uncontested regular despite turning 30 earlier this month.
"A big part of it is ice time and getting more confidence," Engelland said.
Engelland is a rare defenseman who doubles as one of the toughest fighters in the NHL, but he has proven he's not one-dimensional.
"I'm glad that I can play the game as well," Engelland said. "I don't want to shy away from any fights or sticking up for teammates or whatever the cause is. That's still a huge part of my game."
Engelland not only was solid defensively but also moved the puck well and joined the rush when appropriate. One of his goals came on a lofted, skilled tip-in of a Staal pass.
He said he's confident in all situations and with all aspects of the Penguins' system.
"Well, everything but the power play," Engelland said, and laughed when it was suggested perhaps that will come next season.
"No," he said. "That's my rest time."
Like Engelland, Dupuis has thrived despite not being a power-play guy, although he is one of the Penguins' top penalty-killers.
This wasn't his first time reaching at least 20 goals.
"Yeah, it was what? Nine, 10 years ago?" Dupuis said. He had 20 in '02-'03 with Minnesota.
Dupuis figures he was able to set so many career bests because of atmospheres at home and work conducive to achieving.
"As you get more mature, you learn more about the game, you learn more about how to prepare," Dupuis said. "Then you put everything into perspective when you have four kids. You want to show them the right way in life. We're dedicating ourselves at home to do that. It's been great off the ice, and that's reflecting on the ice."
His other "family" has helped.
"It's a group of guys that's special," Dupuis said of his teammates. "You feel like you want to skate every day. You want to be with the guys every day. You want to spend time in the locker room. You don't go backward. You don't feel like, 'I don't feel like going to the rink today.' With the bunch of guys we have here, it's great to see each other every day. Don't get me wrong -- I love my wife and kids and I want to spend as much time as I can with them. But when it's time to work, we all get here and we work with a purpose and we work together."
Evgeni Malkin -- 50 goals, 9 winning goals, 339 shots (led NHL), 47.5 faceoff percent
James Neal -- 80 games, 40 goals, 18 power-play goals (led NHL), 4 winning goals (tied), 41 assists, 81 points, 87 penalty minutes, 329 shots
Chris Kunitz -- 25 goals, 35 assists (tied), 61 points, 230 shots
Pascal Dupuis -- 25 goals, 8 winning goals, 34 assists, 59 points, plus-18, 214 shots, 17-game points streak
Jordan Staal -- 50 points, 5 power-play goals, 51.0 faceoff percent
Kris Letang --10 goals (tied), plus-21
Matt Cooke -- 19 goals, 38 points, 147 shots
Matt Niskanen -- 3 power-play goals, 118 shots
Craig Adams -- 13 assists
Brooks Orpik -- plus-19
Deryk Engelland -- 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points, plus-10, 86 shots, 122 hits, 77 blocked shots
First Published April 9, 2012 3:20 pm