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Defensive production could help snap Penguins’ skid

The Penguins rank sixth in the NHL in 2021-22 for percentage of team production by defensemen. During their current losing streak? Not so much.

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins
Mike Matheson scores past Ottawa’s Filip Gustavsson on January 20.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins have combined for 357 total points this season; 132 of them, or 37%, have come off the sticks of defensemen. According to Statmuse, that’s good for sixth-best in the NHL so far in 2021-22.

But during the Penguins’ current losing streak, defensemen’s names haven’t been showing up on the scoreboard.

Los Angeles Kings v Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang leads Penguins defensemen with 41 points in 42 games (5-36—41).
Photo by Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Images

Here is a summary of defenseman production during the Penguins’ recent six-game winning streak (January 15 to January 25):

Kris Letang: 3-4—7

Mike Matheson: 3-3—6

Brian Dumoulin: 1-3—4

John Marino: 0-1—1

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins
Mike Matheson leads Penguins defensemen with six goals.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

And here is the entirety of production from defensemen during the Penguins’ four-game losing streak (January 27 to February 1), which they carried into the current All-Star break:

Kris Letang: 0-4—4

Maybe it’s that Penguins defense helps drive the team’s production; maybe it’s that when the Penguins are doing well, defensemen have the opportunity to produce. Either way, defenseman production has been correlated with Penguins success throughout the season.

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins
Mark Friedman may have skated in just 12 games with the Penguins so far this season, but he’s recorded four assists.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

When a Penguins defenseman scores a goal, the Penguins are 8-2-1 so far in 2021-22, for a 73% win percentage; when defensemen are kept off the board, the Penguins are 19-9-7, for a 54% win percentage.

Maybe part of the reason for those numbers is that the Penguins (knock on wood) have had their top defensemen healthy for the majority of the season— in fact, despite worries that the team would be missing two blueliners after what appeared to be mid-game injuries to Chad Ruhwedel and Brian Dumoulin on January 30, the Penguins have boasted the same top six (Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang, Marcus Pettersson / John Marino and Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel) for 33 consecutive games heading into the All-Star break.

Now it’s time for one of those consistent six to get on the scoreboard— and potentially help the Penguins to snap their current four-game losing streak when hockey resumes after the break.

New Jersey Devils v Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Dumoulin ranks second on the Penguins defense by averaging over 22 minutes of ice time each night.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images