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Top +/- Rating

A couple days ago I wrote about the NHL's +/- rating leader Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks.  He has been passed by Justin Braun of the San Jose Sharks.  He is a player who is interesting for different reasons. 

Braun leads the NHL with a +19 +/- rating.  This gives him a two point lead over anyone else.  He has eight points in 26 games played from defence so far.  Braun is a player that I have viewed as approximately a replacement level defenceman for the last couple years.  He has been a defensive role player in San Jose for a little over two years.  He was sometimes a healthy scratch who was used in a shutdown role.  This season he has earned a chance to play regularly - perhaps in the spot opened up when Brent Burns moved to forward. 

Braun is most often lined up with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is the better defenceman in the pairing.  In fact Vlasic started so well this season that some have suggested he has a chance to play for Canada in the 2014 Olympics.  Vlasic plays a tougher role than Braun and hence does not have quite as strong a +/- rating.

Braun is a beneficiary of a 1065 PDO, which is strong evidence that this success is not fully sustainable.  He has shown himself to be an NHL calibre defenceman so far this season.  His days as a healthy scratch appear to be over.  San Jose has found a solid defenceman capable of playing on a top pairing in Justin Braun.

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The key for Braun is that he’s really improved his skating—compared to a few years ago, he’s playing at a considerably higher level.  His confidence has also improved—unquantifiable, but hugely important for a defenseman—and he’s got a level of hockey smarts that’s allowed him to thrive under the tutelage of Larry Robinson.

No defenseman is a true +19 guy at this stage, but I truly believe Braun has established himself as a legitimate #2 or 3 defenseman in the league with his all around game.

Posted by nosferatu from Albany, NY on 12/03/13 at 10:51 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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