Penguins coach Dan Bylsma first put Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis on a line together at the start of the 2010-11 season. And for the most part, they’ve stayed together when they are all healthy and in the lineup.
I asked Dupuis if a lot of communication is necessary between the three of them when they’re so familiar with each other, and Dupuis deadpanned, “Yeah, from (Sid). To me.”
Playing alongside arguably the best player in the game definitely requires work. But it’s certainly working.
On Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, they were the Penguins’ best line as they combined for eight points (3G-5A) and a plus-8 rating in a 4-3 win over the Sabres. They had a lot of sustained pressure and extended shifts in the offensive zone.
In the last 11 games, they have combined for 45 points (15G-30A) for an average of 4.09 points per game. The three of them have scored 40.5 percent of the Penguins goals since Jan. 29 (15 of 37).
Both Crosby and Kunitz ranked among the NHL’s top-10 leading scorers as of Tuesday. Crosby ranked second with 24 points (7G-17A) – just one point behind top point-getter Thomas Vanek – while Kunitz ranked eighth (6G-13A). Dupuis’ seven goals and 12 points are impressive totals as well.
So what continues to make this line work so well together and produce so much offense?
“Sid's ability to make us better players out there,” Kunitz answered. “We're just trying to keep up and go to certain areas on the ice. The line works well because we all do little things. We have speed to get up the ice. We can score on a turnover in our end or on a rush and things like that. It's just wreaking havoc on the other team and maintaining the puck and going to certain areas on the ice.”
Dupuis also explained that it’s important for him and Kunitz to know what they’re capable of and what they need to bring to the ice in order for their line to be successful. And Dupuis’ speed and Kunitz’ muscle, especially in the offensive zone, really do provide the perfect complements for Crosby’s talents.
“I don’t think any of us is going to change his game to please the other ones,” Dupuis explained. “Sid knows what I can bring and what Kuni can bring. Obviously he takes the game to a different level than we do. But we try to bring other aspects of the game he and our team need us to bring.”
Dupuis and Kunitz are consistent in how they play each night. And according to Crosby, that’s important in terms of reading each other and making plays.
“You know what you’re getting every single night,” Crosby said. “They work hard, they’re on loose pucks, they battle in front of the net. They do a lot of little things, a lot of little details that don’t go unnoticed as far as I’m concerned. But definitely things that make a big difference in terms of creating offense.
“(Overall), I think we’re just working hard. We’re creating chances and we’re executing when we get them. There’s no secret. … Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. Luckily for us, they’ve been going in.”