The Pittsburgh Penguins have always been looking for wingers to compliment their star centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The season the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, they did finally find one for Crosby in Chris Kunitz. Three seasons ago, the Penguins finally found the winger to compliment Malkin, and that player was James Neal.
Now James Neal was looked at as a guy that could finish for Malkin and give the Penguins that huge one-two punch in scoring lines. This has worked out very well for the Pens over the past two seasons.
Many people credited the rise of James Neal to the skillful play of Malkin. However, Neal has been showing the league that he is more than just the Robin to Malkin’s Batman.
So far in the 2013-14 NHL season, James Neal has emerged as one of the best pure goal scorers in the NHL.
Heading into the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, Neal had 11 goals in only 20 games played. He did not let up in the game against the Blue Jackets either. He put his talents once more on display for the people in Ohio. This raises the question: Is James Neal the best finisher in the NHL?
One can definitely make the argument that he is just that.
Yes, there are going to be people out there that say, “Hey what about players like Alexander Ovechkin?” I say look at the statistics this season. Look at Ovechkin’s numbers. Ovechkin does have 30 goals before Sunday’s games. So by the numbers, yes, he is a better goal scorer than Neal. However, those are not the only things to look at.
Ovechkin is the best player on his team. He is the focal point that everyone looks for on the power play for his team and takes many shots because of it. Ovechkin has taken 190 shots so far this season. Neal on the other hand has only taken 79. Yes, Neal has missed many games this season, but this does show nicely how many more shots Ovechkin takes than Neal.
James Neal gives you quality shots whether he is on the rush, set up on the power play, or scrapping in front of the net to do the dirty work down low. James Neal is truly the “Real Deal” in Pittsburgh. He is doing it without his center Evgeni Malkin and doing it in style. The rest of the NHL needs to pay attention to him and not just Crosby and Malkin when their teams are playing Pittsburgh.