Kovacevic: Handful of unsung heroes in Penguins’ first half

"It takes everyone," Marcus Pettersson was telling me the other night at PPG Paints Arena. "Everyone in here."

He could've included people outside the locker room, as well.

Because let's be real: These insanely improbable Penguins, flying high at 25-12-5 despite being dragged down a quarter of the roster and a third of their salary cap lost to injuries, aren't doing this solely through Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Tristan Jarry, Brandon Tanev and a handful of others, not least of whom is not-to-be-forgotten Jake Guentzel.

It's been a nearly complete contribution, maybe unlike any we've seen since Cups were last raised.

In that spirit, then, let's open this week's Takes with a handful of unsung heroes along the way:

Teddy Blueger: Forget the five goals and eight assists, including a couple huge ones in the past week.

Get this: He's begun 136 even-strength shifts in the defensive zone, 18 more than anyone else on the roster, and nothing could illustrate more strongly Mike Sullivan's faith in him. When times are toughest, Blueger's been first over the boards. And in spite of that territorial disadvantage -- one that usually crushes a forward's possession metrics -- he's somehow been on the ice for 83 high-danger chances for the Penguins, compared to 67 against.

I never doubted Blueger's modest but real offensive potential, going back to his time as a prospect. But I never envisioned this level of defense from him.

"Teddy's done everything we've asked," Mark Recchi told me, and he's worked more with Blueger than anyone for years. "He's a total player."

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