In one game he records 10 shots on goal and scores a hat trick, the game after that he assists on four of five goals scored by the Penguins. Well-rounded player? I think so.
Just a month after signing his six-year deal with the Penguins that will keep him a Penguin through the 2017-18 season, James Neal has continued to show not only fans, but ownership that he will earn every dime of the $5 million. (See http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=617794 for full story.)
This season alone he has established career highs in goals, assists and points, played in his first All-Star game and scored his second-career hat trick.
Neal has always been known as the guy who goes out and scores goals, and with 35 so far this season and still a few games left, the winger could hit 40 while playing on the line with league-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin. A statistic Neal and Malkin share is shots on goal. Neal ranks only second to Malkin with 302 shots, that’s an average of four shots per game.
The game March 20 against Winnipeg made the record books for Neal in three categories: his hat trick, a career-high point total (4) and 10 shots on goal. But those statistics are almost expected with Neal’s reputation as a shooter. What was not expected, however, is what happened in the next game.
March 22 against the Nashville Predators he assisted on four of the five goals scored by Pittsburgh, marking another career high for Neal.
With seven games left before the regular season comes to a close and the Penguins posed for a deep Stanley Cup run, Neal has a chance to make an impact on not only the Penguins scoring, but the outcome of the playoff series as well.