Tag: Brian Dumoulin

St. Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh’s biggest question: Is the defense good enough?


For a team not really known for its defense, the Penguins sure have seen defensemen fly off the shelves.

Last summer, teams spent $76.45 million to lure away Deryk Engelland (Calgary), Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik (Washington).

This summer, more of the same with the Sharks signing Paul Martin and the Kings inking Christian Ehrhoff.

The issue here is obvious — if Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t that great to begin with and then lost all these guys, how good will it be heading into 2015-16?

“I’m comfortable with (our defense) going into the season,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said earlier this summer, per USA Today. “But it is certainly the area we will watch the closest.”

Rutherford isn’t the only one that’ll be watching.

Eyes across the league will be glued to Pittsburgh following Rutherford’s bold renovation project. Nearly all of his moves this summer were designed to improve his forward group — adding the likes of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr and KHLer Sergei Plotnikov — essentially banking on the idea that, ready or not, his collection of young defensemen will carry the load.

And it really is a young group.

Only Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy have appeared in over 200 NHL games; even a “veteran” presence like 26-year-old Ian Cole is a bit of a wildcard, given he was buried on a deep Blues blueline before being acquired last season (prior to ’14-15, Cole’s career high in games played was 46).

As such, kids are going to take on some pretty hefty roles.

Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, both 21, figure to get a lion’s share of the now-available minutes, while the likes of Adam Clendening (22), Brian Dumoulin (23) and Tim Erixon (24) will be fighting for depth spots — which, in Pittsburgh, are pretty important spots.

This is a defensive unit, remember, that was ravaged by injury a year ago (recall when the Pens only dressed five d-men against San Jose?) Things got so bad that, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Taylor Chorney was in the lineup.

Though the club has since hired two new staffers in an effort to “minimize injuries,” losing blueliners to injury always remains a concern.

But there is a wrinkle.

Rutherford, who took heat last year for rolling the dice on a thin blueline while stockpiling offense, says that his abundance of forwards may actually help out should he to add a defenseman.

“Hopefully the younger guys can fall into place and do a consistent job,” he explained. “If not, part of having more depth up front, is that it can help us in the long run because if we have to go get a defenseman we have those extra pieces.”

Translation: Rutherford knows the group might need help.

“I’m fully aware,” he said, “that at some point in time we may have to address that position.”

Pens’ Pouliot headed back to AHL

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

With the Pittsburgh Penguins season done, defenseman Derrick Pouliot will head back to the American Hockey League.

Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, currently leads their best-of-five first-round matchup with the Syracuse Crunch 2-0. Game 3 is Wednesday.

Pouliot did not play in any of the five games against the New York Rangers. He suffered an upper body injury on April 7 in Ottawa, but told reporters on Sunday he’s healthy and ready to play.

The 21-year-old had seven points in 34 games with Pittsburgh while averaging 17:33 in time on ice. Pouliot also appeared in 31 AHL games scoring seven goals and 24 points.

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who had a plus-1 rating in the five game series, is also headed back to the AHL.

Blue liner Taylor Chorney said if he clears waivers, he will also join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

NHL on NBCSN: Can Capitals take advantage of depleted Penguins?

Matt Niskanen

NBCSN will kick off its post-holiday schedule with back-to-back rivalry games tonight. The first will feature the Penguins and Capitals in Pittsburgh and start at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Say what you will about the Penguins’ performance in their recent playoff runs — certainly there’s never a shortage of discussion on that subject — but they are an imposing team on paper and if nothing else, that has translated seamlessly in the regular season for years. They certainly have been an oppressive force against the Capitals, who haven’t beaten Pittsburgh since Jan. 11, 2012.

This is not a typical game for Pittsburgh though. The core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury should be on the ice, but a combination of injuries and the mumps have decimated the supporting cast. When the Penguins played against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, 22-year-old Bryan Rust spent his sixth career NHL game skating on a line with Crosby. Rob Klinkhammer, typically a bottom-six forward with 39 points in 137 career contests, was playing alongside Malkin. Their blueline featured three rookies that each made their NHL season debut this month in Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin, and Scott Harrington.

What a time it is for blueliners Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to make their return to Pittsburgh, especially when mixed with the fact that the Capitals are on a 7-1-2 run.

“We all feel really confident right now and we’re starting to climb in the standings,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner told CSN Washington. “It’s been kind of a perfect storm with important games, the Winter Classic coming up. It’s all coming together.”

Even still, it would be wrong to count the Penguins out. Despite the adversity that they’ve faced recently, the squad has remained competitive. Tampa Bay took a 4-0 lead against Pittsburgh, but even with its depleted roster and against one of the top teams in the league, the Penguins rallied back to at least make it a 4-3 loss.

“It says an awful lot about the leadership in this group,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Guys on the bench were into the game. They were down 4-0 but were talking about getting that first goal or about getting a power-play opportunity. We had them on their heels in the third period. That’s a good building block for us.”

So while this is a good chance for the Capitals to end their skid against Pittsburgh, it still won’t be easy.