Player: Teddy Blueger
Born: August 15, 1994 (age-27 season)
Weight: 185 pounds
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Draft: Second round, 2012 (No. 52 overall)
2020-21 Statistics: 65 games, 9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points, 10 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $2.2 million cap hit after completing the first season of a two-year deal in 2021-22, set to be an unrestricted free agent summer 2023.
Fun facts: Blueger had some interesting home/away splits this season. At PPG Paints he only scored three goals in 31 games (but had an impressive 14 assists). On the road, he shot more often and better, doubling up with six goals in 34 games (but only had 5 helpers while away)...Blueger’s 2:15 average TOI while short-handed led all Pittsburgh forwards in that department this season...Blueger’s 672 faceoffs were third on the team this season, his 130 short-handed faceoffs were top on the team...This was the first season of Blueger’s career where he won more than 50% of faceoffs (53%)...Even though he played 22 more games in 2021-22 than in the shortened 2020-21 campaign, Blueger’s penalty minutes actually decreased from 16 to 10 this year...
2020-21 Pensburgh Season in Review (55 percent B grade; 41 percent A)
2019-20 Pensburgh Season In Review (57 percent B grade; 27 percent C grade)
2018-19 Pensburgh Season In Review (66 percent B grade; 24 percent A grade)
It was a quiet playoffs for Blueger, a little too quiet. Blueger recorded no goals and one assist (in Game 4) in the seven contests with an average of 14:07 per game, which ranked 10th most among Penguin forwards.
Story of the season
Much like Evan Rodrigues, it was a tale of two seasons in 2021-22 for Teddy Blueger. Early on in the year with Evgeni Malkin on the shelf, Blueger got to play a heavy dose of minutes in the first three months of the season, and he responded with some surprising production scoring seven goals in his first 30 games, showing a nice scoring touch for a player who had never broken the double-digit mark in the NHL in goals. Unfortunately though, Blueger wouldn’t in 2021-22 either after his season got derailed on January 23rd when an elbow to the head from Winnipeg’s Brendon Dillon resulted in a broken jaw for Blueger. That put Blueger on the shelf for six weeks and, understandably enough, was a turning point to alter the trajectory of his year.
Coming back from the broken jaw, Blueger scored only one goal in the last 32 games he played in the season (counting the playoffs). He was able to add 10 assists in this stretch, but settled into a fourth line role and provided little offense.
Part 1 (Oct 12 -Jan 24): 40 games, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points, 15:40 per game, 54.8 faceoff%, 63 shots (1.6 per game)
Part 2 (March 8th - end of playoffs): 32 games, 1G+11A, 12 points, 14:02 per game, 49.8 faceoff%, 38 shots (1.2 per game)
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 17 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 48.4 (15th)
Goals For%: 59.7 (5th)
xGF%: 51.4 (12th)
Scoring Chance %: 49.4 (13th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 52.1 (13th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 8.67 (6th)
On-ice save%: .939 (4th)
Goals/60: 0.53 (14th)
Assists/60: 1.21 (6th)
Points/60: 1.73 (9th)
—As a lower line player who started in the defensive zone far more often than the offensive end of the ice, it’s no surprise that situtionally Blueger finds himself being out-shot. He and his linemates did well to about tread water in these departments and not give up a lot of quality chances against. The biggest discrepancy would be widely outscoring the opponents (59.7%) on a 51.4% xGF%.
—Blueger’s goals, assists and points/60 rates were all very similar to last season, with again a very solid 1.73 P/60. He has settled into a player with limited goal scoring ability (with just seven 5v5 goals in 65 games) but is a relatively good playmaking center that will set up teammates for quality chances.
Now over 200 games into his NHL career, Blueger finds himself as something better than a fourth line center, but still limited enough in his offense and goal scoring to still not quite be a third line player when the team is at full strength without injuries. He excels defensively and on the PK.
The defensive value provided can’t be under-stated, Blueger has grown into being one of the most responsible and effective players on the team and, in fact in the whole league away from the puck and with his defensive impact.
The microstats show how and why Blueger is a really good neutral zone player. As a center, he is reliable at making himself available for the defensemen to pass to for zone exits, where he showcases his passing ability by moving up the ice by letting the puck do the work. or by retrieving and carrying it himself. Blueger doesn’t have the skills or hands to carry the puck into the zone that often, but can dump and get on the forecheck to recover it.
Deep in the zone, Blueger is much more likely to go low-to-high and pass back to the point, and generally struggles to create many shooting attempts for himself.
Blueger’s game of the season was probably in the Pens’ 6-0 win over Montreal on November 18th. Blueger had his only two-goal game of the year, and it marked one of two games where he had three points (also had 1G+2A in the 11 goal outburst against Detroit in March).
That's three points for Teddy Blueger! pic.twitter.com/rY54HWWXfO— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 19, 2021
After scoring three short-handed goals last season, Blueger only had one this year, but he’d probably take that tradeoff for the PK being a lot better defensively. The goal was a nice one on a breakaway deke against New Jersey in December.
Tonight we're honoring the red, white, and BLUEGER GOAL! pic.twitter.com/l9tXCzQb3p— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 12, 2021
And here’s a highlight that showcases Blueger’s vision and passing touch to make a nice play for Brian Boyle to get the finish.
Brian Boyle is makin' a big impact early pic.twitter.com/uCDgWzrLQw— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 13, 2022
After an encouraging start to the season that saw a lot of production and being a major piece of a red hot penalty kill, Blueger’s campaign faded away a bit after suffering his injury. Not that it needed to be proved, but he again showed that he is a very dependable, reliable, solid lower line player for the Pens. Blueger only has 1G+1A in 18 career playoff games, though his only job isn’t just to provide offense, teams that go deep in the playoff runs usually find ways for some surprise pop-up performances. The Pens are still waiting for Blueger to step up and play hero or make any sort of impact in the post-season.
It’s probably a lot like 2021-22, minus taking a headshot and breaking his jaw. Blueger should flirt again with breaking that elusive 10+ goal barrier, and end up in the 30ish point range if he get a full year in and plays well, which again can make him quite a valuable 10th forward on the team-type.
Question to ponder
The move to extend Jeff Carter almost certainly settled Blueger’s place as a fourth line center in the Pens’ ideal lineup, but what sort of fourth line should Pittsburgh build? Players like Brock McGinn, Brian Boyle and the departed Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon had varying levels of effectiveness. Since the Pens won’t have much money to work with to find the next McGinn-type expensive lower line player, can Blueger and his playmaking help elevate a younger player (Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna, Sam Poulin) if it comes to that?
How would you grade Teddy Blueger’s 2021-22 season?
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