Key Stat: In terms of boxcar stats, Ben Lovejoy saw regression from 2009-10 to 2010-11 in games played (47 to 34), goals (3 to 1), assists (14 to 4), points (17 to 5) and plus/minus (+11 to +3).
Interesting Note: Among defensemen with 20 games played, Ben Lovejoy had the lowest quality of competition, the worst relative Corsi to that competition and the most % of offensive zone starts. So, in layman terms, he was out mostly against checkers, mostly in situations where the Pens had favorable starts, and then bad things happened, like shots on goal against.
The Good: It’s hard to dig at Lovejoy, he wasn’t used heavily and battled some various injuries this season as he tries to find a useful niche in the NHL. You definitely have to give him credit for trying hard- on March 27th he had knee surgery and was said to be out for 3-4 weeks. But then 16 days later (with Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin ailing, to various degrees) Lovejoy sucked it up and was able to return. For his limitations, Lovejoy can jump into play and think the game well, it just seems like his physical abilities occasionally let him down.
The Bad: Aside from the dreadful number the advance stats show above, Lovejoy was only tasked with playing 13:15 a night, a very low total that shows the coaches didn’t trust or feel the need to use him very much. Lovejoy was pretty assuredly the 7th defenseman, when everyone else is healthy, he didn’t play.
Moment to Remember: January 6, 2012 vs the New York Rangers. Lovejoy scored his only goal of the season, against Henrik Lundqvist and 5 hole, no less, to open the scoring in this game. The dynamic Joe Vitale passed the puck up to Craig Adams who rushed it up the ice. Adams, using his world class vision and playmaking, found Lovejoy streaking up the ice ahead of the back-checking Ranger forward. Lovejoy collected the pass and his low shot hit paydirt. It’d be the highlight of the game for the Pens, who’d end up dropping the game 3-1.
Moment to Forget: April 13, 2012 vs the Philadelphia Flyers (Game 2). With the Pens desperately trying to win Game 2 to salvage a 1-1 series split at home, things were looking up in the 3rd period. Tyler Kennedy scored 1:04 into the 3rd period to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead. Fifteen seconds later Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy took the ice with a neutral zone draw. Evgeni Malkin won the faceoff cleanly to Lovejoy, who skated backwards into his end. Lovejoy then misplayed the puck right to Sean Couturier, gifting him a goal on Marc-Andre Fleury. Game tied at 5-5.
Two shifts later, with the score still tied at 5, Lovejoy got shrugged off a loose puck near the boards by Jaromir Jagr. Jagr was able to play the puck to Claude Giroux, who directed it back to Pavel Kubina at the point. Kubina kept his head up and saw Jagr again out-position Lovejoy in the middle of the ice. Kubina passed the puck (poorly) to Jagr, who was still given the time and space to turn, collect the puck and get a weak shot off past Lovejoy who, out of position attempted to awkawrdly kick his leg out and stop the shot (as the photo at the top of this post shows). Lovejoy probably did more harm than good, as Fleury couldn’t pick up where Jagr was going and the shot snuck in.
That goal would stand as the eventual game winner and the Pens would never end up recovering in the series.
It’d be Lovejoy’s last shift of the game and season. The Pens even elected to play Brian Strait, with only 12 NHL career games under his belt, over Lovejoy later in the series, showing you exactly what coaches/management thought of his performance.
Discussion: Lovejoy was the #7 guy last year, where does he stand this year with Strait, Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo all approaching NHL readiness- to say nothing of rookie Joe Morrow? Lovejoy is signed for one more season at a bargain rate, $525,000, so he would be a cheap option for a NHL depth player. But will he ever find a bigger niche than just a depth player? And will that be in Pittsburgh?