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Analysis: Penguins Much More Than Just Crosby, Malkin

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have been garnering a lot of attention these days, and deservedly so.

Malkin leads the NHL in postseason points (28) and assist (16) – this after winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s regular-season scoring champion. Not to mention the fact that he has been absolutely unstoppable lately, recording six straight mulit-point games totaling 16 points on seven goals and nine assists, including his first career playoff hat trick.

Meanwhile, Crosby has a playoff-best 14 goals and is second in the NHL with 26 points. He has goals in eight of his last 11 games (12 total), including his first career postseason hat trick. What’s more, Crosby has been a consistent threat in the playoffs, tallying a point in 14 of 16 games.

But for all the remarkable feats of Crosby and Malkin – and there are many more not mentioned – the Penguins wouldn’t be one win away from a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance without the other players on the roster. Pittsburgh is more than just two players, and their success has been fueled by contributions from throughout the lineup.

Just consider a small glimpse of what the rest of the team has chipped in during the first three rounds:

Bill Guerin – The veteran is third on the team with 13 points and has scored clutch goals in the postseason. Guerin buried two goals, including the game-winning overtime score, in Game 2 against Philadelphia in the opening round, and added the game-winner in Game 7 at Washington in the semifinals.

Chris Kunitz – The gritty forward is quietly third on the Penguins with 11 assists. He scored a big goal in Game 2 against Carolina and has brought energy and passion to the ice, evidenced by his 43 hits.

Ruslan Fedotenko – The Ukraine native is a clutch postseason goal scorer. He scored Pittsburgh’s first of five unanswered goals in Game 6 at Philadelphia to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 game and series victory. Every time Fedotenko has scored, it’s been during a big moment of the game.

Maxime Talbot
– Talbot has sparked the team’s second line since his elevation during the opening round. He buried a goal on a breakaway to tie Game 2 against Carolina at 3-3 - the Penguins would eventually win 7-4. Talbot’s defensive abilities have allowed Malkin and Fedotenko to assert themselves more offensively.

Jordan Staal – The 6-foot-4, 220-pound shutdown center has been matched against the opposing team’s top players. He held Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter to one goals in six games (Carter had 46 in the regular season, second most in the league). Staal has quieted his brother Eric in the Conference finals. Eric had 13 points on nine goals and four assists entering the third round. In the first three games, Jordan has held his older brother to one lonely assist.

Matt Cooke – Cooke has excelled in his defensive/agitator role during the playoffs. He’s gotten under the skin of his opponents and has been spectacular on the Penguins’ penalty killing unit. Cooke has also chipped offensively on occasion, such as his career-high three assists in Game 2 against Carolina.

Tyler Kennedy – The speedy forward scorched Philadelphia in the opening round, netting the game-winning goals in Games 1 and 4. He’s been strong defensively and has been matched against the opponent’s top lines.

Miroslav Satan – Satan has flourished since being reinserted into the lineup – the Penguins are 8-2 when he plays. Despite his limited ice time, Satan chipped in four assists in five games against Washington, and scored the opening goal of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina on a nice breakaway move.

Craig Adams – The Harvard graduate's has provided a spark during his limited ice time on the fourth line. Adams has been one of the Penguins’ top penalty killers and even chipped in two goals and four points offensively, including a critical tally in Game 7 at Washington.

Sergei Gonchar – The team’s defensive leader has inspired his teammates by playing through the pain of an injury he suffered during a knee-on-knee collision with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Gonchar missed two games but fought through the injury to play in the critical Game 7 victory at Washington. He’s been a steadying figure on the Penguins’ blue line.

Brooks Orpik – As usual, Orpik has been a force on the ice for the Penguins. He’s racked up 73 hits in the playoffs, second most in the NHL, and 30 blocked shots. He’s provided a physical presence on Pittsburgh’s back end.

Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill – The Scuderi-Gill duo has been the team’s top defensive pairing during the playoffs – matching up against the opposing team’s top players and lines. The tandem made Carter invisible, handled Ovechkin well enough for the Penguins to defeat the Capitals and is smothering Eric Staal.

Mark Eaton – Eaton may be the biggest surprise of the postseason. The stay-at-home defenseman has blown up the scoresheet with four goals and six points – he compiled four goals and nine points during 68 regular-season games. But he’s also been defensively responsible and his 35 blocked shots ranked second in the league.

Kris Letang – The 22-year-old blueliner has provided some offensive punch for the Penguins from the backend. He’s also scored critical goals during Pittsburgh’s Cup quest. With the Penguins’ trailing 2-0 to Washington, Letang scored the Game 3 overtime-winning tally to keep Pittsburgh alive. He also scored a key goal in the Game 7 victory at Washington that chased goalie Simeon Varlamov.

Philippe Boucher – The veteran defenseman has been a welcomed addition to the team’s seven-man defensive rotation. He’s provided leadership, a calming presence and scored the game-winning goal in Game 1 against Carolina. Boucher has had a huge impact despite his limited ice time.

Marc-Andre Fleury – The Penguins certainly wouldn’t be where they are today without great goaltending from Fleury. The young netminder stole Games 2 and 4 versus Philadelphia with 38- and 45-save performances. He was tremendous in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, stopping 23 shots to help the Penguins survive a late onslaught by Carolina. He is the silent difference maker for Pittsburgh.

So while Crosby and Malkin get most of the recognition, those two can’t do everything alone. They need help from their teammates and they’ve gotten that assistance in this postseason. Even the best player in NHL history, Mario Lemieux, didn’t win a Stanley Cup until he had a talented group to skate with him.

As for the team, they’ll allow Crosby and Malkin to handle the extra attention while they quietly go about their business of helping the team in its quest for the Stanley Cup. And they are one win shy of taking another big step.

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