I believe it was singer Kelly Clarkson who has recently recorded a song that went something like this: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” If this is true then the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defensive corps is going to be as strong as the steel made in the city itself.
The Penguins took on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. Heading into the game, the Pens were forced to call up yet another young, rookie defenseman from the AHL. In the past few weeks, the Penguins have lost Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, and Kris Letang to injuries, not to mention Rob Scuderi has been on the IR due to a broken ankle. This has forced the Penguins to call up Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, and Philip Samuelsson to the big club. This adds to the other young defensemen, such as Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta already playing for the NHL team.
Now looking at this, many would say that this has to be hurting the Penguins’ chances to win the division as well as to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference. That is simply not the case. These young players are coming up to the Pens and have been working hard to show management what they can do. This shot of new, young blood that has been injected into this Penguins’ lineup seems to be giving the big club a much need boost.
Don’t think for a minute that these players are not playing quality ice time. That just cannot happen right now for the Pens. These young defensemen are playing quality minutes on the power play as well as the penalty kill.
I feel that the young defensemen have also improved the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as well as the rest of the team. With these new players joining the team, it seems like on a daily basis it is forcing Fleury to be sharp at all times. The Flower is not able to take risks with these young players in front of him. I feel that this is very good for Fleury and will help his game in the long run. It is also forcing the rest of the forwards to play a more defensively conscious game. They cannot turn the puck over as much and must take care of their responsibilities on defense. They can’t think that players like Letang, Martin, Orpik or Scuderi are back there to bail them out of their mistakes.
It has been reported that shutdown defenseman Rob Scuderi should be returning to the lineup after the Christmas break. That is good news for the injury-riddled Penguins, but for the time being it is nice to witness the depth on defense that the Penguins have in the minor league system.
Many Pens fans wanted to see the young defensemen get their shot at the beginning of the season. Well, here is your chance!