Obviously when you talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins, the focus quickly turns to two players: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The two are perennial Hart Trophy candidates, when healthy. But this season, there may be a different forward among them that is up for the MVP award.
It’s extremely unlikely that Kunitz has a chance of taking home that type of hardware at the end of the season, especially considering what Crosby’s doing, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t worthy of any sort of consideration.
Kunitz is off to an absolutely fabulous start this season. He has 28 points in just 23 games for the Pens, including 12 goals and 16 assists. His plus/minus rating of plus-17 is tied for the best in the league. After a career year last year, with 61 points, Kunitz is certainly continuing to make his presence known.
Part of the reason for his success is the fact that he’s shooting an absurd 24 percent. That’s far and away the best in his career. There’s also the matter of the fact that he plays next to Sidney Crosby. His numbers themselves are worthy of MVP consideration, no doubt. But is he actually deserving of such an honor?
Kunitz’s numbers are probably a bit inflated thanks to the fact that he does play next to Sidney Crosby, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a reliable player. He’s proven to be a very steady presence on Crosby’s left and the numbers show it. Kunitz is doing it with the physical game too, with 57 hits already on the season.
If Kunitz and Crosby continue on their respective paces, there’s a possibility that Kunitz could eclipse his career high for points, and in a 48-game season no less. Though the likes of Crosby and Malkin deserve the attention, it’s time to give Kunitz a bit of credit for what he’s doing in Pittsburgh this season.