As the Penguins march through their defense of the Stanley Cup, seemingly with a drum and fife leading the way, unexpected players have been thrust into unexpected roles and the Penguins keep winning. While goalie Marc-Andre Fleury heads the unexpected pillars of this Stanley Cup run, another is the Penguins new top pairing defenseman, Olli Maatta.
Maatta’s advanced stats (Corsi, Fenwick, Scoring Chances, High-Danger Scoring chances) are not good. In fact, they are in negative territory across the board. (Check Maatta’s stats here at NaturalStatTrick.com)
Little or no rational argument can be made against contentions that Maatta has been the Penguins best defenseman. Or that Maatta was a lights-out, shutdown defender in Game 7. Or that Maatta is skating as well as he did during his breakout rookie year. Or that Maatta is even adding some offense by pinching into the offensive zone at opportune moments.
Listen to Dan Kingerski and Bob Grove discuss the Caps series, Phil Kessel, and look ahead to the Eastern Conference Final:
Maatta, who missed the final two months of the regular season with a broken hand, returned for the final regular season game and the start of the playoffs. Initially, Maatta skated with freelancing defenseman Trevor Daley. Maatta, as expected, had some good and bad moments as he regained timing and conditioning.
The pair were singled out in the first round by head coach Mike Sullivan for praise. Maatta kept getting stronger. And faster.
In Game 7, the Pens lineup without injured Trevor Daley featured a top pairing of Maatta-Justin Schultz. And Maatta shined in over 22 minutes of ice time.
However, Maatta’s overall advanced stats show a player harming his team. In eight of 11 games, Maatta was a negative Corsi. Most players who have played more than 10 minutes WITH Maatta have a lower Corsi than without Maatta.
Notable exceptions, Ian Cole, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary have significantly better puck possession numbers with Maatta.
So, what does Maatta’s poor Corsi mean? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Not Corsi, Fenwick!
Here’s the fun twist–Maatta has a positive Fenwick effect on players. The big difference between Corsi and Fenwick is–Fenwick credits the blocking team, while Corsi credits a blocked shot to the shooter. In other words, as the Penguins struggled to control play against the Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, Maatta anchored his defensive zone. He had over a 60% Fenwick in Game 7.
Maatta racing into the offensive zone for a couple offensive chances in Games 4 and 5 shouldn’t be ignored, either. Maatta and the Penguins coaches used his two month absence to work on Maatta’s skating. After two surgeries on his shoulder, hip surgery, surgery to remove a neck tumor which could have grown into thyroid cancer, and for fun, the mumps, Maatta’s skating had deteriorated.
Maatta was headed to Rob Scuderi level skating. The decline was steep. However, by Febuary he began to improve his skating. Then came the Winnipeg Jets assault on the Pens, February 16, which also claimed Justin Schultz (concussion).
Maatta suffered a broken hand after absorbing a heavy blindside hit along the boards.
However, Maatta’s recent climb has gone beyond his improvement in February and it has come at a crucial moment. The Penguins were in sore need of a defender capable of top 4 ice and 20 minutes per night.
The Penguins championship defense was 60 minutes away from ending, Wednesday. But Maatta and Schultz played like a top pairing. And that night, Maatta also had a positive Corsi, just for good measure.
Credit NaturalStatTrick for all stats. www.naturalstattrick.com