The Penguins made a couple signings during the morning hours of July 1, 2008. One thrilled the masses, while the other was greeted with mocks and jeers.
Ray Shero inked Evgeni Malkin to a long term extension, but also signed winger Pascal Dupuis to a three year deal that would pay him $1.4 million per season. To say that Penguins nation was not pleased with the Dupuis news would be an understatement.
It made no matter that Shero had locked up a versatile winger who could play just about any forward position, kill penalties and fill in on the top two lines as needed. All that people seemed to remember was a streaking number nine flying down the wing and missing the net with his slap shot — or maybe putting that puck in the gut of the goaltender.
The signing actually made a ton of sense, as Shero has always loved to flesh his roster out with swing men — players who are affordable and can do a ton of different things for his team.
Dupuis has used this season to say one thing to his naysayers, “How you like me now??”
The native of Laval, Quebec has been one of the Penguins best players this year and especially since the league reconvened following the Olympics. He is oozing confidence on a nightly basis, which has him crashing the front of the net with regularity, keeping his stick on the ice and best of all finishing.
His goal yesterday gives him 17 for the season, which is only three off of his previous career high, set during the 2002-03 season in Minnesota.
“Especially since the break, I feel like I’m on top of my game,” Dupuis said after a recent game at Mellon Arena. “I definitely feel great.”
Feeling great has Dupuis playing some of the best hockey of his nine year NHL career.
“I am pretty happy with the way things are going right now, knock on wood,” said Dupuis. “I just want to keep it going. … We all talked about the last 20 games of the season being big for us creating a team identity and showing both other teams and ourselves how good we can be. As a team we have done it.”
The success cannot be coming to a better guy either. Having spent some time around him over the past few seasons, I can vouch for the fact that he is a gregarious as they come, the first to pull a prank on a teammate and an all around good guy.
It is a rare scrum with Dupuis that doesn’t illicit laughter from the gathered media, sort of like his session following last week’s game against Boston. Dupuis had just picked up another big goal in the game, but he had to work extra hard for this one – chopping at Tim Thomas’s leg like a jack rabbit before pushing the goaltender and puck into the net.
“As many as it took,” Dupuis answered, laughing, when asked how many whacks it took. “I think I even got one in after the referee blew the whistle and signaled for the goal.”
Dupuis has proven to be a very valuable commodity for the Penguins and is as big a reason as any for their recent successes — which allows him to continue singing his new theme song “How you like me now??”