The best line in the NHL plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second straight season. Not only do their stats jump off the page, but the Penguins top-scoring line is clutch. It’s not surprising that Sidney Crosby is centering the top-scoring forward line in the NHL. The enigma of it all is no one thought Crosby would be tearing up the league between two undrafted veterans playing better than they ever have in their careers.
Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis look like energized all-world wingers. They have each filled in around Crosby perfectly. This line has combined for 32 even-strength goals. This is the highest goal-scoring trio of any line in the league. Teams have made shutting down this line their top priority in the absence of Evgeni Malkin. Despite all efforts, the Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuis line has been unstoppable. They have been on fire and have come up huge for the Penguins time after time.
Against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins did not play their best game. They were heavily contested throughout the game as they always seem to be whenever they face the Leafs. The Pens hung tough and eventually found a way to win. This was due to their top line scoring. When the Pens needed two big goals in a game where they were not their best, the CKD line was there for the rescue. Head Coach Dan Bylsma perfectly explains how this group of three forwards has become the best line in the NHL.
“I think just our team sticking with it and continuing to play, we end up getting a goal to tie the game on a fore-check. It’s not an end-to-end rush. It’s not going to look fancy because of the play. It’s a fore-check goal and Chris Kunitz is in on the fore-check, wins the puck, and finds Sid in the slot there. The play is a pretty spectacular spinna-rama finding Dupuis at the side of the net. I like the standpoint of that we didn’t go off the page. We stayed with it and kept at it. We came up with a fore-check goal with our big line. Even the second goal it’s a defensive play that really gets the opportunity and we go back the other way because of it. We end up getting a game-winner there.”
The CKD line got a game-winning goal that ended up rewarding the Pens with their seventh straight victory. They’re line is successful based upon three drastically different players performing a bunch of small individual duties to mesh together as one unit. The final result being chemistry. Each player is so important to the other two, thus making up a line that is on fire right now.
What new can we say about Crosby while he is having another spectacular season? He leads the league in points (47) and assists (35). Crosby has eight more points than the second-leading point scorer. But wait there’s more. For the first time, Crosby is truly replicating a Mario Lemieux-like season. Crosby is making his line-mates around him considerably better for the first time in his career. This hasn’t always been the case. Despite 20 games where the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Marian Hossa a few season ago, Penguins’ fans have been demanding a winger who would fit in perfectly with Crosby. Those demands have now ceased. Crosby has transformed Kunitz into the top-six forward everyone has been searching for to play on Crosby’s line. Pens’ fans have started to realize the top-six forward they were looking for was on the Pens’ roster this entire time.
Kunitz, a former finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, is having a career best season. He is the second-leading goal-scorer in the league with 18 goals. This puts him only two goals shy of Steven Stamkos who leads the league with 20. Kunitz, with 39 points, is the man who is second in the points scoring race behind Crosby. He also leads the league, on a sometimes defensive-lacking Penguins team, in plus/minus rating with a +23. Kunitz has never recorded more than 26 goals in a season and may break that record this year in a 48 games. The Pens’ left-winger is playing so unbelievably, he may break all of his offensive career highs in this shortened season. Kunitz has provided the goal-scoring touch for this line, and he has scored from everywhere inside the offensive zone. Kunitz takes no short cuts and has been rewarded for his work ethic on many occasions this season.
Dupuis is the most versatile player on this line and may be the most versatile player on the Penguins. He possesses a blistering shot, has blinding speed, and plays a physical game. Dupuis does whatever is asked of him well. His resourcefulness has been on display at a constant pace this season. Dupuis leads the Penguins with 12 even-strength goals. Against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, the short 6’1” right-winger bulled over 6’9” Zdeno Chara. Thursday night against the Maple Leafs, Dupuis scored the tying goal and game-winning goal to carry the Pens to a victory that the Pens questionably deserved. Dupuis isn’t on the scoring sheet every night, but his line would be nowhere without his services.
This Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuis line is the best line in the league because they can score goals in so many ways. They will score off the rush, they will cycle the puck down low until there’s an opening in the slot, or they’ll pick up a garbage rebound goal. This line has been amazing and plays solid in their defensive zone as well. Unfortunately for the Eastern Conference, the Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuis line does not look to be slowing down anytime soon.