Scoring, grit, leadership and consistency. Pascal Dupuis owns all four of those characteristics and, finally, it seems like those outside the Penguins’ locker room are beginning to realize that.
After another lights-out regular season – 38 points (20G-18A) in 48 games – and a torrid start to the postseason, Dupuis has proven that he is a bona fide star on one of the NHL’s most talent laden teams.
“He’s a guy we have gotten a lot of questions about in the last couple of months,” Bylsma said, “(about) him being under the radar, but I’m not sure he is. He’s been one of the best even-strength goal scorers in the league for quite some time now and his numbers stack up there with some of the best names that we all talk about being great players.”
Dupuis’ skill was evident during the Penguins’ first-round series against the New York Islanders, when he scored five goals through six games, including one in Pittsburgh’s series-clinching 4-3 overtime victory in Game 6.
“I think he’s always had the speed and strength,” captain Sidney Crosby said, “but he’s going to a lot of tough areas and he’s getting opportunities to put it in the back of the net. So, I think his scoring touch is probably something that’s developed a little more over the last couple years and with his speed, he’s going to get into those situations and those positions.”
Dupuis has enjoyed the most productive years of his career during the past two seasons, averaging 0.79 points per game this season and 0.71 the year prior. He attributes much of his success to playing alongside Crosby, but while the captain was sidelined for the final 12 games of the regular season, Dupuis continued to produce at a rapid pace – posting 12 points (3G-9A) during that period.
Despite the rise in his point total over the last two seasons, Dupuis said he hasn’t changed his game from when he came to Pittsburgh at the 2008 NHL trade deadline.
“My role hasn’t really changed, that’s the thing,” Dupuis said. “Yes, they’re going in right now and yes, point-wise, I’m on the board, but my role hasn’t changed. I’m still killing penalties, I’m still playing the right side, or the left side, with Sidney Crosby and it hasn’t changed in the last three years.
“So, it’s really more of the same since I’ve been here. We need to find wingers for ‘Sid,’ but for now, I’m glad that guy’s me.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“He’s 34 and in the best shape of his life,” Crosby said. “He put in a lot of time and, during the lockout, there were about 10 of us together and he was the one (who was) kind of pushing everyone.”
Dupuis’ work ethic is put on display before and during each game, resulting in him becoming one of the Penguins’ best two-way players. His point-production is invaluable to Pittsburgh, but his ability to play well on both ends, including on the penalty kill, is what makes Dupuis such an asset.
In the Pens’ 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 14 at CONSOL Energy Center, Dupuis’ two-way ability was put on display for the hockey world to see as he netted a shorthanded goal with about seven minutes remaining that sealed the game for Pittsburgh.
“He obviously has put up a lot of points,” Douglas Murray, who assisted on that shorthanded goal, said. “He’s done so without lacking anything defensively. He is very sound defensively. He obviously has great speed and a great stick and he reads the play well and he uses that on the defensive side too, which is huge for us, especially on the penalty kill.”
The rest of Pittsburgh’s blueliners also recognize Dupuis’ defensive acumen.
“He honed his skills killing penalties and being that energy guy and blocking shots and getting pucks in deep,” Paul Martin said. “He’s always had that penalty kill mentality and has been able to take care of his own end defensively.”
After six seasons in Pittsburgh, Dupuis is finally getting the universal respect he deserves outside of the Pens’ dressing room. But as for those inside that room, they’ve never doubted the level of Dupuis’ play.
“He’s been a very, very consistent performer,” Murray said. “Night in and night out, he’s playing hard and if he’s not putting up points, he’s still a very effective player for the team. Whether it’s getting a hit on the forecheck or holding onto the puck or making great defensive plays.
“As long as I’ve been here, I would not try to replace him, that’s for sure.”