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Hey, That Guy Looks a Lot Like Kasperi Kapanen (Is Supposed To)

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Pittsburgh Penguins game Kasperi Kapanen

Kasperi Kapanen doesn’t have a goal after three games of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ opening-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.

He does, however, appear to be getting something that is no less elusive, and probably even more important: His coach’s confidence.

After a miserable regular season, during much of which Kapanen looked to have only a fleeting familiarity with ice hockey and no particular interest in playing it, he has been a positive force in the early stages of this series.

He has been engaged, physically and mentally, and has been a positive presence almost every time he has gone over the boards,

The best evidence of Sullivan’s faith in him is Kapanen’s average ice time of 19 minutes, 55 seconds per game. The only Penguins forwards averaging more are Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“I think (Kapanen) has played really well, and I think the biggest thing that’s noticeable is that he’s using his speed to his advantage,” coach Mike Sullivan said Sunday. “He’s getting in on the forecheck. He’s been another physical player for us, but he’s using his speed off the rush, just wide speed and shooting the puck.

“He’s getting to the net. He’s had a number of opportunities in and around the blue paint, just by getting to the net, getting inside the dots. And he’s doing it consistently, game-in and game-out. That’s an important aspect of trying to generate offense and score goals in today’s NHL.”

During the regular season, Kapanen routinely pulled up short and curled toward the boards after carrying the puck into the attacking zone. That has not been the case in this series, which is a big part of the reason his impact has spiked.

“I think he’s done a great job during this series,” Sullivan said. “I think he’s playing really well. And I think that if he continues to play this way, he’s going to score some goals for us.”

Pittsburgh Penguins notes

*** Sullivan said that Rickard Rakell, who was injured in the first period of Game 1, skated Sunday, but that Tristan Jarry and Brian Dumoulin did not. The team had a scheduled day off.

*** Crosby, who took his game to a level few players can reach during the third period of Game 3, has two or more points in five consecutive playoff games against New York. He’s kinda good, so the New York Rangers probably have noticed him by now.

*** Sullivan, on the play of Jason Zucker in Game 3, when he had a game-high seven hits in his first appearance of the series: “I thought he was a big part of the game last night. He brought us a lot of energy. He obviously plays the game with an edge. He brings a certain level of physicality to our team, and he helps us get momentum. … He has a game that’s conducive to playoff hockey, and I thought he brought it last night.”

*** Although the Penguins chased Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin from Game 3 with four goals in the first period, they still appreciate the challenges he can pose for them. “He’s a really good goalie,” Sullivan said “He’s had a tremendous year for the Rangers. … He’s not an easy goalie to beat.”

*** The Pittsburgh Penguins will be trying to take a 3-1 lead in a series for the first time since facing Philadelphia in the opening round in 2018. They eliminated the Flyers in six games. The Penguins did, however, lose a second-round series to the Rangers in 2014 after winning three of the first four games.

*** Crosby’s next assist will be the 128th of his playoff career, moving him past Jari Kurri and into sole possession of seventh place on the NHL’s all-time list.

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William Maloni
William Maloni
8 days ago

Glad Kappy is getting noticed positively for his playoff work, so far.

Brandon o
Brandon o
8 days ago

Kapanen struggled to find a role and identity all year. Preseason he was cast as a top 6 scoring winger ready to breakout. It seems he didnt have the hockey IQ to keep up and found himself out of position frequently. Diminishing ice time and linemates led to a lack of confidence and becoming the fan whipping boy for this team. Idk if hes turned the corner yet, but his focus on defense and checking has resulted in less pressure to produce offensively and better overall play. The offensive talent is there, but Kapanen has really stuck out by using… Read more »

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
8 days ago
Reply to  Brandon o

I certainly hope it isn’t a case of deciding to play harder because it’s the playoffs. I was starting to miss Simon whenever 42 was out there.

Jay95
Jay95
7 days ago
Reply to  Brandon o

What I’ve noticed is that Kapanen just over thinks the game. When he stops thinking, puts his head down and just works, he’s fine. His instincts are good, and he can be a great defensive player, but he starts getting in his own way and starts to hesitate.

I don’t think that will go away necessarily, but it can be limited to shorter spurts when the results start to come in as he matures.

charmaine dawso
charmaine dawso
8 days ago

i’ve been a fan of Kasperi and glad to see him playing so well in this series…and feeling that if he continues what he’s doing, the goals will happen.

Cal
Cal
8 days ago

Kap is a tough one to figure out. He has great speed, great shot, and has some physicality to his game. These types of players are hard to find. His production doesn’t seem to match his skill set. Sure d men can read his cross the blueline stop and curl, and he doesn’t receive passes well (this goes back to Toronto days) but he should have more results. I’m glad he picked up his game because of his upside and there has been fan chatter of not resigning him (not resigning him would be a huge mistake). Some puck luck… Read more »

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