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Pittsburgh Penguins’ Defense No Longer A Weakness

Brian Dumoulin has helped inject speed and youth into what was a plodding defense corps last year for the Penguins.

Brian Dumoulin has helped inject speed and youth into what was a plodding defense corps last year for the Penguins.

Perhaps you heard this refrain both locally and nationally the past few years regarding the Penguins — “The Pens have a great collection of offensive talent, but their defense is pretty thin past Letang and Martin.”  Mostly the argument centered around their plodding defense corps that was also forced to use young players to cover for injuries and ineffectiveness.

By games played, here are the top 7 defensemen and their relevant stats for the Penguins in the 2014-15 season, with their ages in parentheses:

  • Rob Scuderi (36) — 82 games, 1 G – 9 A – 10 PT, 110 blocks, 41 hits
  • Paul Martin (33) — 74 games, 3 G – 17 A – 20 PT, 139 blocks, 60 hits
  • Kris Letang (27) — 69 games, 11 G – 43 A – 54 PT, 117 blocks, 131 hits
  • Simon Despres (23) — 59 games, 2 G – 15 A – 17 PT, 85 blocks, 184 hits
  • Christian Erhoff (32) — 49 games, 3 G – 11 A – 14 PT, 49 blocks, 73 hits
  • Robert Bortuzzo (25) — 38 games, 2 G – 4 A – 6 PT, 44 blocks, 116 hits
  • Derrick Pouliot (21) — 34 games, 2 G – 5 A – 7 PT, 20 blocks, 15 hits

Last year’s cadre was a strange mix of guys in their early 30’s and early 20’s, with only Kris Letang in what could be considered the prime age for a defenseman.  This group was not a very dynamic group, save Letang, as they were mostly made up of smart-on-the-puck defensemen that were willing to block shots, but not really a threat to do much else.  There was very little speed among the non-Letang defensemen.  Now contrast it with this year’s top 7 defensemen:

  • Brian Dumoulin (24) — 79 games, 0 G – 16 A – 16 PT, 68 blocks, 77 hits
  • Kris Letang (28) — 71 games, 16 G – 51 A – 67 PT, 122 blocks, 135 hits
  • Ian Cole (26) — 70 games, 0 G – 12 A – 12 PT, 122 blocks, 122 hits
  • Olli Maatta (21) — 67 games, 6 G – 13 A – 19 PT, 87 blocks, 81 hits
  • Ben Lovejoy (31) — 66 games, 4 G – 6 A – 10 PT, 104 blocks, 154 hits
  • Trevor Daley (32) — 53 games, 6 G – 16 A – 22 PT, 60 blocks, 23 hits
  • Rob Scuderi (37) — 25 games, 0 G – 4 A – 4 PT, 32 blocks, 10 hits

The move from de-emphasizing the presence of Rob Scuderi from 2014-15 to trading him this season early on can not be understated.  When the tale of this season is finally completed, Trevor Daley’s presence and two-way play will need to be trumpeted loudly.  Thankfully, the Penguins have been able to cover for his loss in the Lightning and Sharks series.  The top 4 defensemen, by games played, are significantly younger and faster than last year’s top 4.  Brian Dumoulin is clearly becoming Paul Martin 2.0, with the added benefit of being nine years younger.

The defense corps is no longer a weakness on this team.  All of the guys shown above (save the since-traded Rob Scuderi) are under contract next year already, except for the RFA Ben Lovejoy who I expect will return to be the 7th defenseman.  At times in the regular season and in the playoffs, Maatta and Pouliot have provided some groan-inducing moments, but by and large the team is no rolling out three solid defensive pairings each night.

This is what a Stanley Cup winning team looks like.

About Kevin Creagh (289 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.