Meet Chuck Kobasew. A player with his pedigree is something the Pittsburgh Penguins have lacked over the past few seasons. It’s no coincidence the Pens have seen playoff disappointments during that time. Kobasew knows his role on the team and this will make him an invaluable asset throughout the season.
By realizing that he is most effective when he keeps his game simple, Kobasew has been a huge factor to start the season. He’s provided much more than the Pens’ coaching staff would’ve ever expected. Kobasew has two game-winning goals in two games. He’s buried both of his tallies no more than a few feet outside of the opponents’ goal crease.
Even if Kobasew hadn’t tallied a goal yet, he’s been noticeable all over the ice. He’s playing a physical brand of hockey by laying out as many checks as he can. He’s getting in on the fore-check to gain offensive possession, and has no hesitation about driving to the net. This simplified style will pay huge dividends playing alongside Beau Bennett and veteran Brandon Sutter.
“We all bring something different,” said Kobasew. “Beau, he’s very skilled. Suttsy’s a great big body, two-way centerman. I’m trying to get in there [to] hunt pucks, be physical, and trying to get pucks to those guys.”
Kobasew has reaped the rewards from his blue-collar style, and he’ll continue to do so as he and his line-mates improve upon their chemistry. Kobasew has three career 20-goal seasons. Now that he’s playing on one of the highest scoring teams in the league, there’s a good chance Kobasew is on pace to have his fourth.
Although Kobasew’s career with the Pens is only two games old, his 2013 journey started well before the NHL’s opening day. Kobasew had to earn a spot on one of the most offensively gifted clubs in the league.
“Chuck has had a fairly interesting month getting the opportunity to come in here on a tryout,” said Dan Bylsma. “It’s a different mindset and a different type of feeling. You don’t come in here saying hello to your teammates. You come in here in a complete competition. The guy across from you is a guy you’re competing for a job with.”
After signing Kobasew to a $550,000 one-year contract days before the season was set to begin, Ray Shero’s acquisition may pay huge dividends come playoff time. Kobasew has the type of game that is perfect for the playoffs. He’s gritty and has the sacrifice needed to succeed in the post-season.
Kobasew has past playoff experience. He’s played in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Calgary Flames and participated in a post-season with Boston Bruins. He’s well on his way to participate in his third playoff stint in a Pens’ uniform this year.
Unbeknownst to many, Kobasew wasn’t a complete stranger to some of his Pens teammates. Kobasew was a part of the Boston College Eagles’ 2001 NCAA national championship team with Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik. Kobasew was named tournament MVP. He also worked out with Sidney Crosby in the off-season doing high altitude training under the tutelage of renowned trainer Andy O’Brien.
Crosby may be the one who is most responsible for Kobasew’s presence being felt so early in the season. According to Shelly Anderson’s article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Crosby was consulted by Penguins’ management on many occasions before the Pens invited Kobasew to camp this summer.
Having someone who is considered part of the supporting cast, who can score, will be paramount to the Pens’ playoff success. Since the first two forward lines get all of the attention by opposing defensemen, the Pens continually searched for a third line that can contribute goals in a timely manner. Since Jordan Staal departed, the production of the third line has dramatically declined.
Once James Neal returns from injury and Kobasew gets more time with Bennett and Sutter, we should see a third line that reminds us of 2009. Even if the third line tones things down a bit in the scoring category, the Pens finally found a tough grinder who requires attention all over the ice.