Friday, April 29, 2011

Grading the Penguins: Defense, goalies


Part One on grading the Penguins was on the forwards. Here's the rest of the roster.


Kris Letang: B-plus

His game fell through the floor over the last couple months of the season. Prior to that, he was under Norris Trophy consideration for his strong offensive and defensive play. Possibly overworked by season's end.

Brooks Orpik: B

Missed 19 games but still led the team with 194 hits. Second on league-best penalty kill unit in shorthanded ice time per game, third-best at blocking shots. Offense not part of his repertoire nor is it expected.

Zbynek Michalek: B-plus

Team's best shot blocker, first in shorthanded ice time per game. Offense took most of the season to show up before coming in at a decent clip. Slow start at both ends contributed to lower grade.

Paul Martin: B

Nearly as effective at blocking shots as Michalek, Martin also was very positionally sound. Also got better as the season went along but did have some glaring gaffes late. (Not that he was alone.) Would like to see more offense from the team's highest-paid defenseman.

Ben Lovejoy: B-minus

In his first full professional season, Lovejoy admirably filled in as the No.5/6 defenseman. Split time with Deryk Engelland before taking on a full-time role after the Alex Goligoski trade. More offense to his game than defense.

Deryk Engelland: B

Established himself as one of the league's new heavyweights. Became another physical defenseman on a team lacking in that area. Surprisingly competent with the puck but knows his limitations and doesn't try to do too much. Shockingly did not get into the playoffs despite Pittsburgh being terrorized in front of the net.

Alex Goligoski: A

Still ended up leading the team in goals by a defenseman despite the mid-season trade to Dallas. Capable of a minus-5 or a four-point game any given night.

Matt Niskanen: C-minus

Once acquired for Goligoski, Niskanen began his tenure with some impressive work before suffering a decline. The playoffs were not kind to him.


Marc-Andre Fleury: A-minus
Brent Johnson: A

Fleury is downgraded for his woeful October. After that, he was probably one of the five best goalies in the NHL. He was easily the team MVP and an argument could be made of the league. Johnson is the ideal backup. He knows what it takes to win games consistently, having formerly been the No. 1 guy in St. Louis, and it was through his efforts that Pittsburgh survived October when Fleury struggled.

Overall, these units received higher grades than the forwards. That's not a surprise; once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went down, this team prevented goals a lot better than it did scoring them.

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