BOSTON— Pittsburgh Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen let loose during and after practice at Fenway Park on Sunday.
If you like honest athletes, you might like his comments. If you’re part of the social media contingent that pushed Kapanen, you may have a different opinion.
The past five weeks have seen wild swings for Kapanen and his role with the team. From the press box to a hat trick to essentially being benched when coach Mike Sullivan shortened the bench to be presented in the same situation.
“A month ago, you know, I was in the gym while the game was going on, I wasn’t playing,” Kapanen said. “Every time you play, you feel better. I think 10 points in 12 games, with my role right now, I guess that’s going in the right direction.
It wasn’t an unprecedented move, and it wasn’t surprising when coach Mike Sullivan made Kapanen a healthy scratch. For two weeks in November and the weeks before, it looked like rock bottom for a player to whom a lot was given and expected.
When he left the lineup after the Nov. 12 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens, he had just five points, including just one goal.
Upon his return, Gorilla Monsoon reportedly called it a house of fire. Kapanen scored five points in two games, including a hat trick Dec. 3 against the St. Louis Blues in his third game.
The hatty followed a two-point game (1-1-2) against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Kapanen had 10 points in 12 games from Dec. 1-28.
This is the good news statistically.
The bad news is that Kapanen doesn’t seem to be making a dent in the Penguins’ bottom six problems. His ice time has fluctuated from seven to 13 minutes per game and varies based on special teams minutes and game-to-game performance.
In fairness, a third line is often loaded with tougher minutes. Kapanen and Jeff Carter noted the defensive role and the preponderance of defensive zone starts.
“I think (the lack of scoring opportunities) was just that we weren’t hanging on to the pucks and spending enough time in the offensive zone,” Kapanen said. “Although we take a lot of draws in the D zone and we are on the defensive side from the start.”
The Penguins’ last six lines have been a black hole for puck possession for weeks. When Kapanen is on the ice (mostly with Carter), the Penguins have just 40% of attempted shots, 36% of scoring chances, and just 29% of high-risk shots.
“The way we throw people out there, we get a lot of D-zone draws,” Carter said. “So we have to win our draws in the D zone. First, get out and then try to keep some pressure. We go out there and get chances, but we don’t get pucks (for second chances). »
Despite the statistical imbalance, Kapanen has been on the ice for MORE even-strength goals (7) than allowed (6).
Glass half full: He has four points on the power play (2-2-4) in games on December 13.
Glass half empty: this means that 40% of his points in December are in favor of the man.
Statistics provided by NaturalStatTrick.com
Kasperi Kapanen played both the third line with Jeff Carter and the fourth line with Teddy Blueger. Despite a history of being shorthanded, Kapanen remained in the Penguins’ second power-play unit, but didn’t kill on penalties.
“He’s been playing well for us since he came back into the lineup,” Carter said. “Kappy is Kappy. He’s a happy guy. He works hard. And hockey is a weird game. When things don’t go your way, you have to stick with them, and eventually they will. So I’m happy for him. »
The even-strength eye tests for Kapanen are mixed. In smaller bursts, Kapanen showed energy and speed, but those moments stood out because, for other parts of the game, he didn’t.
This is also where the story takes a turn.
Locker room Kasperi Kapanen
After practice Sunday at Fenway Park, a day before the Pittsburgh Penguins compete in the 2023 Winter Classic, PHN chatted with Kapanen. He fired straight from the hip on being scratched and the barrage of social media, which highlighted the negative stats above.
As some know, Kapanen does not have an engraver account.
If he has something to say, there will be no anonymous comments. He uses his own account and will say it directly.
PHN asked what the third or even the fourth row wanted to do best to increase the chances of scoring.
“That’s how hockey is sometimes,” Kapanen began before pausing and changing course. “I mean, people make sure to let me know that our line has been terrible and we’ve got odds against – and that’s just people on social media, that’s what they write, and they don’t really know what they’re talking about.
“But obviously the numbers don’t lie, I guess, in a way. I think (the lack of chances) was that we weren’t hanging on to the pucks and we weren’t spending enough time in the offensive zone, even though we take a lot of draws in the D zone and we’re on the side defensive from the start. But I think, you know, lately it’s been better.
. Kapanen responds to critics know not what they speak