Olli Maatta Deserves a Spot on the Powerplay


One of the biggest strengths of the Penguins‘ powerplay, is having a defender like Kris Letang working the point. Yet, having Letang up top is also one of the biggest weaknesses of the powerplay. This weakness was exposed by the Philadelphia Flyers two nights ago.

On paper the power play of Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist is the most lethal in the entire NHL. But as I had predicted earlier, shorthanded goals would once again become an issue.

Your first response would be “but the Penguins have not let up a shorthanded goal yet.” While technicality that statement is correct, you fail to account for the brief amount of time when the opposing penalized player comes out of the box and the Pittsburgh Penguins powerplay unit is still out.

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This is exactly what happened against the Flyers,  in fact fourteen seconds after the Penguins failed to convert on the powerplay. Sean Couturier came out of the box and created an odd man rush in which Letang was alone and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare then scored.

Kris Letang is an excellent quarterback on the powerplay, but the Penguins current formula will continue to be exploited. After Pittsburgh signed Christian Ehrhoff, it was widely expected that he would assist Letang on the top powerplay. As usual the Penguins organization prefers gaudy statistics instead of playing sound hockey and eventually being able to win in the postseason.

The concept of playing one defender on the powerplay works at times, but only when your lone defender is truly special and plays defense. Kris Letang while he is an offensive weapon does not always play well defensively.

To correct this coach Mike Johnston should move Ehrhoff up to the top powerplay and send either Kunitz or Hornqvist down to the second unit. This not only improves the balance of the top line but improves the quality of the second unit. Steve Downie should not be on the powerplay, so Kunitz/Hornqvist would obviously replace him. Presently the second powerplay uses Paul Martin and Ehrhoff at the point, so the logical question is “Who will replace Ehrhoff?” and the answer is simple.

May 13, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) shoots the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period in game seven of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Rangers won 2-1 and took the series 4 games to 3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Olli Maatta.

Not only is Maatta capable of playing on the powerplay, as he did last season, but he deserves to play on the powerplay. It still baffles my mind how the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership (specifically Mario Lemieux, who is regarded as having one of the best minds in all of hockey) cannot recognize the special talent that Olli Maatta possesses.

I personally disagree with many thing about how former coach Dan Bylsma operated the team, but I agree with him on one key aspect, he gave Maatta powerplay time. Whether that was due to injuries or his wisdom, we will never know. Last season under Bylsma, Olli Maatta averaged one minute and twenty four seconds on the powerplay (per game).

Olli Maatta was able to produce twenty nine points (9 G – 20 A) with six of those (3 G – 3 A) with very limited powerplay time. While Olli Maatta is widely considered one of the best defensive talents the Pittsburgh Penguins have had in years, maybe even all time, Johnston has failed to recognize this.

Hopefully in the near future see revamped powerplay lines with Olli Maatta included somewhere, Johnston will not regret giving him a chance.