The NHL’s top defensive defenseman: Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik?


In many sports, it’s easy to track the impact an athlete can make on defense. Major League Baseball statheads developed all kinds of crazy ways to monitor the impact a player has on the field, which seems to generate hardcore vs. casual fan debates about Derek Jeter’s worth. (This is something you can see in passing during an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)

When it comes to hockey, it’s a lot more difficult to measure defensive impact because most plays do not result in a goal and many goals are not the fault of every opposing player on the ice. Sure, you can observe numbers that range from vary in quality from plus/minus to Corsi ratings, but ultimately it’s largely about perception.

That being said, there are some numbers that are better than others. The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle has been looking at the league’s best defensive defensemen and forwards spanning to his beloved blog, so when he puts together a list of those top players, people take notice.

Mirtle released his latest list for the “Rod Langway Award,” a fictional trophy that serves as a reaction to the offensive fixation exhibited by voters regarding the Norris Trophy. His is list is based on an unreleased formula that includes quality of competition (QCMP), even strength goals allowed per 60 minutes (EVGA/60) and shorthanded goals allowed per 60 minutes (SHGA/60).

As you can see from this screen shot of Mirtle’s list, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik ranks in first place so far for the 2010-11 season while the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins produced two players in the top 10.

Interesting stuff.

Does this list – based on stats, not opinion – leave you convinced that these are the league’s best blueliners in their own end? Let us know in the comments.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?