The rookie Olli Maatta was the best player on the ice tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Rangers, scoring his sixth goal of the season in the first period, and assisting on James Neal‘s tying goal with a little under three minutes left in the third period.
Though the Rangers did ultimately win the game 4-3 in the shootout, it still seemed to me that New York should have been able to win this one in regulation. They completely outplayed the Penguins, but could not respond the way that they needed to when the Penguins pushed back.
Maatta continues to impress, with excellent stick play and good instincts. He seems to have a veteran presence in terms of being able to read plays before they develop.
Also, Maatta has a good sense of when to pinch and when he should stay back. Tonight, he happened to create the chance that was necessary for Neal to score after deciding to push forward. These kind of instincts could be important going forward for the young Finnish player.
He will have the opportunity to further hone his game for Team Finland in Sochi, who will possibly play the spoiler in this tournament after being hit with a recent string of injuries. Maata will have an integral role for this team, and may even see himself setting up a goal that is important on the international stage.
Maatta will have the chance to shine in the postseason this year, and it will greatly help his development. He almost was not kept at the NHL level earlier this year, but he has shown his value as an excellent chip for this team in the years to come.