Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman Rob Scuderi has taken a lot of flak from fans and media. I myself have cited his poor play and handcuffing contract on multiple occasions. But, Scuderi isn’t the only Defenseman struggling for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When Jim Rutherford traded Simon Despres to the Anaheim Ducks for Ben Lovejoy I talked myself into liking the swap. Two Management and Coaching staff’s soured on Despres so it seemed clear that there were issues behind the scenes and he had to go. Lovejoy was coming back to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a refined, smart, reliable Defenseman after fine-tuning his game in Anaheim. Makes sense, right?
The issue is that Ben Lovejoy isn’t living up to expectations and his poor play is a large part of why the Pittsburgh Penguins are struggling. He isn’t criticized much by media, which is likely due to his willingness to do interviews and provide quality quotes. The most memorable of those quotes for me since he has arrived in Pittsburgh is that he has never seen a defense like Mike Johnston’s, but it makes total sense and works great.
If that’s the case, why does he look so bad executing it?
Since joining the Pittsburgh Penguins Lovejoy is posting a 49.61% Corsi-For (all situations considered). His season average, including his time in Anaheim, is 47.4%. Since I considered all situations shorthanded minutes are included, which will drop a player’s possession numbers. But consider that since the trade deadline Simon Despres is posting a 51.88% with the same defensive partner Lovejoy played with in Anaheim. Oh, and he kills penalties too.
The chart below will give you an idea of the impact that Lovejoy has on the forwards that spend the most amount of time on the ice with him. Brandon Sutter is the only player that doesn’t see their CF% and FF% drop. All stats were pulled from stats.hockeyanalysis.com if you’d like to dig in for yourselves.
Whether you base his performance off analytics or the eye-test, it’s easy to see that the opponent is living in Pittsburgh Penguins territory when Ben Lovejoy is on the ice. One of his biggest traits is supposed to be his puck handling ability and transition game, but it isn’t represented in his play thus far.
Many have questioned the recent defensive lapses by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Well, numbers don’t lie. When you lose players like Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff and have to rely on guys like Ben Lovejoy and Rob Scuderi to take on extra minutes, you’re going to struggle.
I still believe the Penguins will get into the post-season dance. However, it goes without saying that if Letang and Ehrhoff don’t return and alleviate these guys of a work load they aren’t suited for, that dance won’t last very long.
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