On a star-studded Penguins team featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s easy to overlook a guy like Pascal Dupuis.
One guy not guilty of that? Pittsburgh’s head coach, Dan Bylsma.
“He’s been outstanding in a lot of different roles for us,” Bylsma told the Canadian Press. “He’s turned himself into a leader in how we play.”
Dupuis, 32, is playing arguably the best hockey of his his 11-year NHL career. He’s scored a career-high 23 goals, is two assists shy of tying his career-high in assists (28) and recently set — yep, you guessed it — a career-high in points, with 50.
The personal benchmarks are great, but what might be most impressive are Dupuis’ game-winning goals. He’s scored eight this season, tying him for fifth in the NHL, ahead of All-Star snipers like Marian Gaborik, Jamie Benn, Daniel Sedin and Corey Perry.
Amazingly, he’s just one back of Evgeni Malkin for the team lead.
“That’s a career let alone one season,” Bylsma said.
But for all of Dupuis’ statistical accomplishments, his biggest contribution is versatility. He started the season playing alongside Malkin and Chris Kunitz before switching roles to skate with Crosby when No. 87 made a brief return in November.
When Crosby went back on the shelf, Dupuis was put on a line with Jordan Staal and Steve Sullivan — and all they’ve done lately is combine for 15 goals during Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak.
“We have a little bit of everything on that line,” Dupuis said. “Jordan can do anything. Steve is really poised, really patient. It seems to be working.”
Dupuis is just one of several Penguins enjoying a renaissance year. Matt Cooke’s scored a career-high 19 goals, Sullivan has his highest point total since 2006-07 and Staal has more power play goals than the last two seasons combined.