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Insider Only Game 7 Notebook: Penguins look for more production from Chris Kunitz

Game 7 Notebook
As the Capitals forced a game 7, a lot of discussion has turned to goaltender Marc Andre Fleury who only stopped 19 of 24 shots in game 6 and for the most part has been outplayed by rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov.
While Fleury needs to perform better for the Penguins to advance to their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, making him the scapegoat is absurd. Fleury’s a easy target from fans and the media as he plays the most important position on the ice and some of the criticism has been warranted but not all of it.
The Penguins gave Fleury a 7 year deal worth $35 million this past summer for situations like this and Fleury will play in his first career game 7, Wednesday night. These are the kind of moments where goaltenders make the jump to the next level.
Kunitz has 1 goal in his last 33 playoff games
While Evgeni Malkin got a lot of criticism after being held pointless in the first two games of the series, one player who has really fell under the radar is left winger Chris Kunitz. When the Penguins traded offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney, they were seeking a winger who could produce consistently on Sidney Crosby’s line.
Kunitz has provided a physical presence and has created space for Crosby but his primary duty is to put the puck in the net when playing with the games top playmaker.
Kunitz is goal-less through the first 12 games of the playoffs and has only 1 goal in his last 33 playoff games, dating back to his time with the Anaheim Ducks.
Kunitz brings a lot to the table but when your traded for a valuable asset like Ryan Whitney, your going to valued by your offensive production on the top two lines, not how well you play with Jordan Staal.
Latest Insider update on Sergei Gonchar

The big news from Pittsburgh today, was Sergei Gonchar participating in the Penguins optional practice.
I observed the entire practice and Gonchar was clearly not 100% but there were a lot of positive signs to come out of today’s practice.
Gonchar shot the puck very well and was getting enough strength from his right leg. As the practice went on, his skating improved and he was taking harder strides.
Following practice, Gonchar underwent treatment and he will test his injury (upper right leg contusion) at tomorrow’s morning skate.
Based on what I’m hearing, Gonchar is going to do what he can to play in a specialist role in game 7 as the Penguins would dress seven defenseman.
J.P. Barry leaked the rumors that Gonchar would miss several weeks?
I heard from some close associates in the media, that J.P. Barry the agent for Gonchar leaked the info that Gonchar would miss 4-6 weeks and likely be out for the remainder of the season which was reported on TSN over the weekend.
When Gonchar first suffered the injury, that was the buzz going around the arena even before the game ended. By Saturday morning, it was revealed there was no MCL injury and that Gonchar suffered a severe upper right leg contusion according to team sources.Guess Gonchar didn’t relay the message to his agent.
Penguins hold significant shot advantage
What the Penguins have going for them into game 7 is a significant shot advantage (226-159 edge). They have to keep pressing and getting puck to the net.
The Capitals have not been able to limit the Penguins offensive attack and that’s not going to change in game 7.
Against the Rangers, the Caps were able to clog the middle and keep the Rangers to the outside. That strategy has had minimal success against the Penguins.
As for the Capitals not getting much pucks to the net, they remind of the Penguins in the mid 1990’s with Jagr, Lemieux and Francis on the team. They would only register 20-25 shots on most nights but would put 4 or 5 in the back of the net.
WBS Penguins ousted from the playoffs
The Hershey Bears ( Capitals AHL Affliate) beat the WBS Penguins 3-0, Tuesday night in game 7.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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