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Shero Better Be Looking For Defensemen Who Can Play, You Know, Defense as Deadline Nears

In the aftermath of the Penguins' exhausting 7-6 overtime victory over Montreal Saturday night, one thing is becoming pretty damn clear:

Crash the net on the Penguins' defensive corps, and you've got one helluva chance to score.

Not only will the Penguins' D-men not put up much of an effort to stop you from getting near their goal, they're not going to do very much to clear you away from the goal once you get there.

That may very well be an exaggeration, granted, but generally speaking it's not an outlandish statement to make either.

And as we today hit the T-minus one month mark of the NHL Trade Deadline, it would behoove Penguins' GM Ray Shero to be on the lookout in the coming weeks for defensemen that can actually play defense.

That is, if he wants the Penguins to be the Stanley Cup contender that many have proclaimed his team to be.  'Cause without better defensive play, that dog ain't huntin'.

Puck-moving defensemen have never been an issue in the Shero/Dan Bylsma regime in Pittsburgh.  Players like Ryan Whitney, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang were/are most definitely slanted towards the offensive aspect of their postiion.  For all of his offensive prowess, where people have started to throw his name into Norris Trophy consideration, Letang has had some flashes of good defensive play, but there have been just as many serious defensive lapses as well.

Perhaps Letang's woes on defense wouldn't be as magnified if it were not for similar type breakdowns from his line partner and defensive elder Brooks Orpik, who has not had a good year at all on the blue line.  While the 32 year-old Orpik is well-known for his physical play, his defensive positioning has definitely gone down a couple of rungs on the D-man ladder in the last couple of years.

While defensemen like Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen have been pleasant surprises, youngsters like Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo show plenty of potential and the recent re-addition of Mark Eaton will hopefully provide some stability as well, overall this defensive corps clearly needs help.  While the Penguins have the offensive firepower to compete against anyone in the league, it simply most likely cannot survive in a playoff atmosphere with the porous defense they currently employ.

So while fans and media have fixated their attention on GMRS to find another top-6 winger (yours truly included), it's clear at least to this schmuck that the top priority is pretty obvious now:

Getting a top defenseman that can actually play defense.

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Evilpens's avatar

I agree & when will media types realize Orpik is NOT physical in front of his own net? he will drill someone with their Head down in the neutral zone or up against the boards, BUT when someone is in front of the net he stands next to them & doubles the screen on the Goalie

Posted by Evilpens on 03/03/13 at 11:50 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

These issues sound eerily similar to the issues my team has had for a few years now. I fear this is becoming the norm…

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/03/13 at 12:36 PM ET


eaton looked pretty good last night for his first game back.  orpik looked the worst i have seen him since he came up from the minors years ago.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 03/03/13 at 01:10 PM ET


In his post-game comments, Bylsma mentioned that the defense didn’t do enough to get “sticks on pucks” around the crease. He didn’t say anything about stopping guys from driving there or moving bodies away from the crease. Not one thing.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that DB doesn’t want guys to “put up much of an effort to stop you from getting near their goal” or “clear you away from the goal once you get there.” He’d rather they whack at the puck.

Sounds stupid, but the alternative requires thinking that, for instance, that Derek Engelland is willing to be physical on every inch of the net other than the space just outside the crease (where he tries to play like Tom Poti). I just don’t buy this explanation.

It doesn’t matter who Ray Shero acquires, if DB tells them to forget the man and try to stick check him while he’s in the crease the crease will remain uncleared.

Posted by larry on 03/03/13 at 02:30 PM ET

Lindas1st's avatar

Yep, the Pens need a good physical stay-at-home d-man. Should be GMRS’s #1 priority at the trade deadline.

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 03/03/13 at 04:35 PM ET

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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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