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Penalties forcing Penguins to use top four defenders too much? - 01-24-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Through all of three games in this young season, two things have emerged for the Penguins. A reliance on their top four defenders and a propensity for taking penalties.

The team's top two defensive pairings - Kris Letang (above) and Matt Niskanen as well as Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik - have taken on the lion's share of ice time on the blue line.

Just based on the smell test, one could assume this is due to a lack of trust in the bottom pairing of Simon Despres and Deryk Engelland. On paper, it would appear penalties are the primary factor.

Prior to tonight's games in the NHL, the Penguins are tied with the Rangers for most times short-handed this season at 17.

If you look at the Penguins' time on ice for their defensemen, they top four blue liners are also their top four options for killing penalties:

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Kris Letang 26:17 3:24
Paul Martin 24:08 4:36
Brooks Orpik 23:19 5:50
Matt Niskanen 20:40 2:35
Deryk Engelland 10:13 0:35
Simon Despres 9:57 0:17

If you compare the Penguins to some of their peers, their reliance on their top four, particularly in short-handed situations, stands out even more.

Here's a look at six other teams, who like the Penguins, have played three games this season (before tonight) and have only used six defensemen:

Blue Jackets

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Jack Johnson 27:20 2:56
James Wisniewski 24:57 1:23
Fedor Tyutin 23:08 3:06
Nikita Nikitin 15:17 2:40
Adrian Aucoin 15:17 1:53
John Moore 12:35 0:00

Stars

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Alex Goligoski 23:32 3:16
Stephane Robidas 22:23 3:10
Trevor Daley 21:22 3:02
Jordie Benn 18:35 2:19
Bredan Dillon 16:35 0:38
Philip Larsen 15:34 0:11

Wild

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Ryan Suter 25:42 1:30
Tom Gilbert 23:23 2:27
Clayton Stoner 21:55 2:29
Jared Spurgeon 21:48 1:33
Justin Falk 12:38 0:49
Nate Prosser 11:06 0:49

Predators

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Shea Weber 27:10 1:01
Roman Josi 26:14 3:08
Kevin Klein 22:34 2:10
Scott Hannan 21:28 1:05
Ryan Ellis 14:29 0:00
Hal Gill 14:12 2:14

Canucks

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Alexander Edler 23:29 1:45
Jason Garrison 23:01 1:34
Dan Hamhuis 22:53 2:32
Kevin Bieksa 22:37 2:53
Keith Ballard 17:36 0:42
Chris Tanev 17:16 0:52

Jets

Players Overall
Ice Time
Short-handed
Ice Time
Dustin Byfuglien 27:09 0:02
Tobias Enstrom 26:36 2:03
Ron Hainsey 23:21 2:51
Mark Stuart 18:58 1:48
Grant Clitsome 13:54 1:35
Paul Postma 13:41 0:00

There's really no reason to change how the Penguins man their penalty kill at the moment. They've only allowed two power-play goals this season, each on five-on-three situations.

But seeing them gas their top four defenders this much, this early could be an issue as this compacted 48-game season wears on.

If the Penguins want to level out their dispersal of minutes on the blue line, they can start by taking fewer penalties.

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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