Pittsburgh really schooled Carolina in playoff hockey this round. Okay, it helps when you have two of the top players in the game today and they are both lighting it up. Carolina simply ran out of gas. When Crosby and Malkin rack up seven and nine points respectively in the four games against your team, you just aren’t going to win.
Since coming over from Anaheim, Chris Kunitz has been as advertised. The undrafted winger must feel like he’s died and gone to heaven. He goes from a pretty good situation in Anaheim where he played on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to playing with either Crosby or Malkin on a nightly basis. But what does next season hold in store for Kunitz? It’s said that you have to look to the past, to see the future.
In 2002-03 while playing for Ferris State in the CCHA, Kunitz had one of the best offensive seasons in the history of the league. In 42 games, he recorded 79 points, only three short of the all-time record shared by Dan Doiron (1985-86) and Brian Hills (1982-83).
To give Kunitz’s last season of CCHA hockey a little perspective, let’s look at what a couple of future NHL players did in the same season in the same league. R.J. Umberger scored 39 points in 37 games in 2002-03 and Mike Cammalleri had 44 points in 29 games (64 points pro-rated to 42 games). To be fair, Umberger was two years younger and Cammalleri was only 19-years-old that season. As an 18-year-old, Cammalleri scored 61 points in 42 CCHA games.
So back to the original question, what can we expect for next season with Kunitz?
He’s durable, as evidenced by his missing only one game over the last three seasons combined and has recorded 60, 50 and most recently, 53 points over that period. It must be noted however, that Kunitz recorded 18 points in his 20 games with Pittsburgh. If he can maintain that pace for an entire season, he would have 74 points. So are 70-75 points an unreasonable total for a soon to be 30-year-old player whose career high is 60 points? In a word, no.
Ruslan Fedotenko has seven points in his last eight playoff games.
Sergei Gonchar is only one point behind Nicklas Lidstrom in defenseman playoff scoring. Even nursing a seemingly serious knee injury and wearing a brace, Gonchar has points in ten of 15 playoff games.
Heir apparent on the Pens blueline, Kris Letang has nine points in 16 playoff games. From March to May, regular season and playoffs combined, Letang has 23 points in 35 games (54 points pro-rated over a full season). So can Letang jump from 33 points to 55 points next season? Absolutely. Letang’s development is one of the main reasons Ryan Whitney was dealt to Anaheim, well that along with the fact that Pittsburgh needed a top six winger. The reality is, the kid has gobs of skill and has been getting the requisite ice time to showcase those talents. Oh yeah, next year is also a contract year for Letang. Cha-ching!
Hands up if you thought Chad LaRose and Ray Whitney would end up tied in playoff scoring with 11 points in 18 games. Whitney outscored LaRose in the regular season 77-31. Although the Wizard had three points in his last five games, he was all but invisible for the majority of these playoffs.