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Breaking down the defense

It wasn't too long ago that I was bashing the Penguins' defense for their lack of offensive production.  Now of course, they call it "defense" for a reason, but in Pittsburgh's offense-first system there is a higher level of expectancy from the blue liners.  Given the result of last night's loss to the Devils, you'd hope they could find the defensive edge again soon.  Hopefully.  Maybe.  Wait, did I say "again?"  Take two: ahem...You'd hope they could finally find some sort of defensive edge that doesn't leave Marc-Andre Fleury out to dry.  (better)

Fans may not be asking for a point per game for some of these guys, but just a little hint of production can go a long way.

After the jump, we catch up on the defense's offense.  And, admittedly, even the defensive defenseman's defense (I just wanted to use the same word in three different forms...I'm easily amused -- and still mad about last night).  Jump...

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Kris Letang 3 24 27 3 43

Last goal: January 21 against the Capitals

When he isn't taking out his own teammates (see also: Evgeni Malkin), Kris Letang remains a bit of a concern on the offensive side of the puck.  Since returning from the Oly break, Tanger has picked up three points in seven games.  Not great, but not bad either.  Again, we're not looking for forward stats from the d-men. 

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Sergei Gonchar 10 33 43 -7 43

Last goal: March 14 against the Lightning

Throughout the course of his career, Sergei Gonchar was always dubbed a slow starter.  As of this season, you can at least put that to rest for a while.  Gonch tallied 1g and 4a over the first five games.  Most recently, he picked up the game-winning goal against the Lightning this past weekend and is only five games removed from a six-game point streak that saw some solid numbers -- one goal, seven assists.  Is it safe to say Gonchar, despite being one of the older blue liners on the team, remains one of the best and most consistent?

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Alex Goligoski 7 25 32 5 18

Last goal: March 4 against the Rangers

Maybe it's just me, but it always seems Alex Goligoski is out on the ice when the Pens give up some bad goals.  I stress seems because, well, his +/- is at +4 since returning from the Oly break.  What's more, his offensive side has picked up a bit over the last six games with one goal and three helpers.  However, I'm sure we'd all like to see some more tallies in the goal category.  After all, before notching one against the Rangers on March 4, GoGo hadn't lit the lamp since...gulp...November 4.

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Jay McKee 1 9 10 6 52

Last goal: November 14 against the Bruins (only goal)

We'll give McKee a little break since offense isn't exactly his realm of expertise.  Initially considered a ship-out option during the trade deadline, McKee has only played in two games since the Olympic break.  Even still, it would appear his defensive edge is a bit dull as of late.  While it's not hard to forget his shot-blocking efforts from earlier in the season, it is hard to remember the last time he put in a strong effort along those lines.

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Brooks Orpik 1 18 19 9 60

Last goal: February 14 against the Predators (only goal)

Speaking of defense-first guys, Brooks Orpik.  Of course it's also worth noting that Brooks is only one assist (or goal) shy of a new career-high in points for 20.  While the assist certainly seems more likely, a goal would likely cause Hooks' head to explode.  Orpik is shooting more, hitting the net with some deflection-friendly lobs and showing some assertiveness on the power play.  While his numbers may suggest otherwise, I really can't complain about Orpik's production this season.  19 points from a defensive defenseman?  I'll take it.

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Mark Eaton 3 11 14 5 24

Last goal: November 28 against the Rangers

Much to Mark Eaton's credit, he's not shooting much.  He never really has, actually.  If you look over his player profile on the Penguins' official site, you won't see many digits in the shot column.  Yet despite a low shot total, Eaton is playing in his best season for total points with 14.  Seeing as how he's never topped 13 points before should at least pose as some indication of his offensive side.  But any guy putting up a career-best year for points get a pat on the back in the Penguins' system.

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Jordan Leopold 7 12 19 -2 22

Last goal: January 31 against the Islanders (while a member of the Panthers)

He has yet to light the lamp as a Penguin, but I wouldn't suggest holding your breath until he does.  Leo has never scored more than 9 goals in a season, and even that was back in 2003 with the Calgary Flames (in which he also recorded a career-high 33 points).  But perhaps the more flattering stat in Leo's corner is his +/-.  In his first game as a Penguin, Leo recorded a -1 in the +/- column.  Since then he's dropped below a +/- of 0 only once (last night: -2), but admirably posted up a +3 and +2 in back-to-back games on March 6 and 7.