PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 20: Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 20, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kennedy's goal turned out to be the game winner in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over Chicago. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Key Stat: Last year in 2010-11, Tyler Kennedy got a total of 150:15 of powerplay ice-time (4th overall among full-time Penguin forwards trailing only Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz) and Kennedy scored 7 goals / 7 assists with the man-advantage. In 2011-12, TK got just 84:06 of PP time (just 8th among forwards behind Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, James Neal, Steve Sullivan, Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke) and TK only tallied 3 assists (with 0 goals). The 11 point difference there (14 to 3) between seasons accounts nicely for the 12 less points Kennedy scored this season from last.
Interesting Note: In his 38 games before the all-star break this season, Kennedy scored 6 goals, had an even plus/minus and 27 penalty minutes. After the AS break, in 22 games TK scored 5 goals, was a +10 and had only 2 PIMs.
Interesting Note II: In 34 combined career games against the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders, Kennedy has 36 points- 19 goals, 17 assists (1.06 points/game). In his other 292 career games against the rest of the 27 NHL teams, TK has 51 goals and 70 assists (.41 p/g).
The Good: Thanks largely to his shoot-first mentality, only 3 Penguin forwards (Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin) had a better Corsi-on rating than Kennedy. Kennedy, is good at what he’s good for: a hard-working forward who you can count on to score 10-15 goals and 20 assists at even strength in the course of a season. At 5v5, Kennedy was on ice for 33 goals for and 26 goals against, so you can count on him to eat 3rd line minutes and end up on the positive end of things. Despite a lack of size, Kennedy is also a great forechecker, willing to put his nose in the dirty areas down low and in the corners to support the team mentality of grinding, cycling and possession play.
The Bad: Tyler Kennedy is like the junk-man. He has limited playmaking abilities and will often throw pucks to the net on the offensive zone, no matter what angle he has, or no matter who was on his way. The evidence is the combined 121 shots Kennedy had blocked or missed the net, by far the highest amount per minute played amongst all forward. And then there’s the score-less drought, Kennedy went with 1 goal in 23 games from December 31st to March 17th, a period in which he threw 63 shots on net. Without much playmaking skill, or ability to do much more than throw pucks at net, Kennedy can not and will not be a top 6 forward in the NHL. And given how Dan Bylsma used him (see PP time above), it’s clear that is exactly the way the team sees him too when all options are healthy.
Moment to Remember: December 10, 2011, vs (who else) the Islanders, two periods into the game the Pens were tied with the Isles 3-3. Kennedy got the primary setup for Pascal Dupuis and then Matt Cooke for the game’s next two goals, and Pittsburgh would roll on to a 6-3 victory. It was important, because just two games earlier Crosby went down with injury, and the Pens lost the next game out to Philadelphia. Kennedy’s crucial assists helped to break the slide and would help the team stabilize without their captain.
Moment to Forget: December 10, 2011, vs the Ottawa Senators. Despite a game high 8 shots on goal, 25 seconds into the second period Kennedy watched as Colin Greening opened the scoring. When the game was tied 3-3 13 game minutes later, TK watched as the Sens played the puck around and Jared Cowen scored. Then in the 3rd period Kennedy saw Jason Spezza put the game out of reach at 6-3 for Ottawa.
Discussion: Tyler Kennedy has one more year on his contract, which will count $2 million against the cap. With skilled wingers in front of him, he doesn’t figure to get the PP time that made him a 21 goal scorer two seasons ago. Are you satisfied with what he brings to the table in a 3rd line role without much special teams help? Should the Pens slot him back in his 3rd line role or do you have something better in mind?