Often overlooked by a casual NHL fan is the bottom-six grouping of skaters on a club’s forward lines. Though these players might not steal the headlines, for guys like Blake Comeau, they fill a very integral role on every team.
Comeau was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins this past offseason and while he may not be the glitzy point-producing player Pens’ fans have become accustomed to over the years, his role is a crucial one to the team’s success this season.
It didn’t take long for Comeau to make an immediate impact on the team. His first goal in a Penguins sweater came in the second period of the Penguins' 6-4 opening night win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, which proved to be the game-winning tally. Comeau buried a one-timer on the Ducks' John Gibson after a taking a nice feed from defenseman Olli Maatta.
During the preseason, Comeau showed the fans and the organization that when it comes to his skating skills and puck possessing abilities, he knows exactly what he’s doing.
“I think I’m a puck possession kind of player,” Comeau said. “I like to use my size and my patience to hold onto it. I feel like I have some different skills that I can contribute physically, also offensively, but I’m responsible defensively as well.”
Being a puck possession player is a perfect fit for head coach Mike Johnston’s new system, which he laid out for the public back at his introductory press conference in June. The system is built on puck possession as well as carrying the puck out of the zone instead of relying on high-risk stretch passes.
While he won’t be stealing powerplay minutes from Sidney Crosby, Comeau has shown flashes of brilliance in the past in the scoring categories. He tallied a career high in points (46), goals (24) and assists (22) back during the 2010-11 campaign while he was a member of the New York Islanders.
Comeau hopes he can see his numbers jump this season when as he slowly meshes with his new teammates.
“Since I left New York, my numbers have dropped off a little bit,” Comeau said. “So I’m excited to expand my role and get back there contributing offensively like I know I can. Lot’s of depth upfront, so it’s exciting for any player to come here and play with these types of players.”
With his signing this offseason, Comeau capitalized on the opportunity to play for the Penguins because it would help give him a new set of tools to refine his game.
“Obviously there’s guys that have been in here for awhile,” Comeau said. “This organization has had success over the years, so it was exciting for me to come to Pittsburgh. I wanted to play for an organization that’s committed to winning. You have a good chance of winning and players are some of the most elite players in the NHL.”