Pascal Dupuis played 15 seasons in the NHL, during which he took part in 871 games, collecting 190 goals and 409 points. The Laval-born forward notably had three seasons of 20 or more goals, and he won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and 2016. Never drafted into the NHL, he was hired by the Montreal Wild Minnesota as a free agent after playing with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Shawinigan Cataractes in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ). In addition to the Wild, Pascal has worn the colors of the New York Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers and Penguins. Pascal has agreed to work with the NHL.com team to cover various current hockey topics.
In the debate of the best player in the world which has been raging for several years, we can distinguish two different categories: the best to collect points, and the best to make his team win.
For those who still doubted it, Sidney Crosby still seems to be leading in the second category.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain carried the team on his shoulders through the first five games of their first-round series against the New York Rangers. For a team that still has great depth, it’s Crosby’s line that has done almost all the work offensively.
TO READ : Without Crosby, Penguins took a nosedive in Game 5 loss | Crosby’s status doesn’t change Rangers approach
Sid has found a way to elevate his game on the ice when it matters most, as well as show unparalleled leadership off the ice.
It didn’t take long to realize his importance when he fell in action in Game 5. Rangers took the opportunity to come from behind to avoid elimination, and the potential absence of Crosby for the last two games of the series could hurt the Penguins badly.
We saw Evgeny Malkin take Crosby’s place between Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, but « Geno » has had some trouble since the beginning of the playoffs, and that’s normal. It’s really not easy to miss half a season and find your cruising speed. There are several tiers in a campaign, and if you start two or three tiers behind everyone else, it’s hard to make up for lost time.
Let’s hope for the Penguins that the past is a guarantee of the future, because Malkin and Crosby have a habit of raising their game a notch when the other falls in battle. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Malkin at the top of his game in Game 6.
On the Rangers side, I like the way the youngster Alexis Lafreniere cheek. He’s a guy who runs on emotion, and he’s always upped his game when the stakes were high in the past, whether it’s at the World Junior Championship or in the QMJHL playoffs. He is an extremely talented player destined for a very bright future, who is learning to display the ardor and aggressiveness that constantly characterize him.
Video: NYR@PIT, #4: First playoff goal for Lafrenière
He also has a much better understanding of how to be successful against men, because although he has always possessed exceptional skills, he has often physically dominated the levels he has gone through, rather than falling into the lace. In the NHL, he is no longer able to dominate with the same tools that allowed him to find success in the lower levels.
He looks like he’s about to put all the pieces together though, and if he continues to run on emotion and get physically involved like he is doing right now, he’ll be on his way to success soon, because this is how he creates his offensive.
Match Pack #7 On The Horizon
In my column last week, I talked about the parity that prevailed after two games in most series, and it still holds true with seven out of eight series needing at least six games. It’s really fun to watch the playoff games so far.
What has struck me so far is the number of goals that have been scored since the beginning of the playoffs, with the exception of the duel between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames, who practice what he has always agreed to call « playoff hockey ». It’s supposed to be hard to score in the playoffs! Goals aren’t supposed to be pretty, you have to work to earn every inch on the ice.
However, you have to be careful with the final scores, because no less than 27 goals have been scored in empty nets. We have seen teams withdraw their goalkeeper very early in the third period and concede two goals afterwards. For comparison, 30 empty-net goals have been scored in ALL 2020-21 playoffs.
But regardless of the pace of the games and series, we will be entitled to several final games in the first round, at least three, maybe more, to the delight of the fans. For players, the optimal mentality in my opinion is to put everything that happened in the trash and live in the moment.
Experience helps enormously to manage your emotions well in the ultimate matches, because every little detail carries an even bigger emotion and the consequences of every little mistake can be fatal. More than ever, we must play within our means and properly assess the probabilities of success of each of our actions.
It’s really a toss-up, Game 7. The momentum of the previous game doesn’t mean much. Moreover, the team that wins Game 6 to force Game 7 to go up a losing record of 88-96 in the final games. I would however tend to give the advantage to the home team, yes for the energy of the crowd, but mainly because they benefit from the latest substitution. It’s even more important since the offensive team can decide on which side the puck will be deposited on the face-off following a disallowed clearance.
Watch out for projections for hopefuls
The Montreal Canadiens have won the 2022 draft lottery and will therefore speak in the very first row on July 7 in their own amphitheater.
This is a great opportunity for them to add a quality young player to their organization. There’s a lot of talk about Shane Wright, who I haven’t seen play very often, by the way, but regardless of who’s going to come out in the very first row, I want to serve as a little warning when trying to project what a 17-year-old player or 18 will become in the NHL.
In the case of Wright, for example, we have often heard comparisons with Patrice Bergeron. It’s good to have a comparison, but please compare Wright to Bergeron when the latter was 17 or 18… and not to the 32-year-old version of Bergeron who won the Selke trophy repeatedly!
Bergeron was selected in the second round, and he was not dominating offensively in his draft year. He developed a bit later offensively, and maybe Wright will too… and maybe not. And maybe a player drafted behind him will have a better career, which wouldn’t matter at all. If there is no generational player in a cuvée, it is very difficult to accurately project the career of all the hopefuls.
We must not forget that the evaluation of hopes, especially those of the Ontario Hockey League, has been made more complicated by the season lost due to the pandemic. The players continued to hone their skills, but they didn’t progress in game play.
*Comments collected by Sébastien Deschambault, Editorial Director NHL.com