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How about a little love for Chris Kunitz?

Chris Kunitz

#14 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins



Sep 26, 1979

2009 - Chris Kunitz 7 0 4 4 1 16 0 0 0 0 13 0.0

I doubt I'm alone in this assumption so I'm just gonna throw it out there - is it just me, or are a lot of people getting on Chris Kunitz's case early on in the season?

Kunitz, a member of the first line alongside Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin, is expected to put up some good numbers this year.  And why not?  I mean, look who his linemates are.  But in light of his early struggle, if you even want to call it that, we have to look at the big picture.

We've spent the past few days analyzing and praising the Penguins' depth.  Chris Kunitz, despite not lighting up the scoreboard, is just as much a factor in that term as any.  Some see a guy on a scoring drought.  I see a guy hitting everything that moves.  Some see a guy who can't find the net.  I see a guy who's led his teammate to the net four times. 

And hey, was his shootout winner against the Canes not a thing of beauty?

The Post-Gazette printed an article the day before the Canes game more or less calling Kunitz out for his lack of offensive production.  From where I see it the attack is somewhat cryptic.  It's done in that sorta way where you give two positives and finish on a negative. 

Example (which in this case is actually one negative followed by two positives):

If scoring goals was his sole, or even primary, duty on that line, Kunitz likely would have been replaced long ago. But because he does so much, and because his scoring problems are not costing the Penguins points, he apparently will get more time to start scoring again.

Dave Molinari

My soapbox may not compare to that of a city's newspaper or I may not have the established credibility of an award-winning sports journalist, but I think a little background on Kunitz and his career can help clear up some of this...anticipation.

Linemates aside, it took Kunitz seven games with last year's Anaheim squad to record his first point, an assist against Toronto on October 21.  This actually kicked off a streak of 10 points in 10 games.  He didn't pick up his first goal until four days later, the ninth game of the season, in a 6-4 win over the Canadiens.

Now let's compare it to this season. 

Kunitz picked up his first point (assist) of the season against the Flyers, the third game of the season.  He's since been on a four-game point streak and netted the game-winning goal in Wednesday's shootout.  He's still looking for that first goal.

I can only imagine the pressure that exists for any player skating alongside Crosby.  I really don't think you can measure a player's success (or failures) in goal totals.  Would I like to see him pop a few more?  Hell yeah.  Who wouldn't? 

I think Molinari said it best in that same article:

But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line, and it has been awfully good for the Penguins since Kunitz was added to their personnel mix in the trade that sent defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim Feb. 26.  They went 15-2-3 down the stretch after acquiring him, earned the franchise's third Stanley Cup in the months that followed and are off to a 5-1 start in 2009-10.

Goals or not, the Pens win with Kunitz.  When he starts clicking - and he will - the wins will keep coming.