Coming To Your Defense

03/01/2010 11:11 PM - 

Contributed by Linton Yee

Joni Pitkanen

Joni Pitkanen

With about 20 games left in the season, everyone will be pushing for the playoffs or gutting their roster, so it’s good to know which defensemen are on a roll and which defensemen are not pulling their weight.

Pillars of Strength

Mike Green (14G, 46A, +28, 44 PIM, 158 SOG, 7 PPG, 22PPA, 1 SHA)

One of a handful of players averaging over a point per game, Green continues to lead all defensemen in scoring, goals, assists, plus/minus, power play points, power play assists, and is tied for the lead in power-play goals with Stephane Robidas

Washington has the top-ranked offense averaging 3.92 goals per game (with San Jose next 0.73 goals less at 3.19) and the top ranked power play at 25.6%. With all of the prolific scorers on the Capitals, Green will easily achieve 80 points this year, with half of them on the power play.  Expect business as usual. 

Drew Doughty (11G, 34A, +17, 42 PIM, 115 SOG, 6 PPG, 18 PPA)

Certainly not a surprise for Kings management, Doughty continues to play at a stellar level and is currently tied with Olympic teammate Dan Boyle for fourth in defenseman scoring.  With 24 power play points, Doughty is tied with Tomas Kaberle for second among defensemen. 

Doughty is the second leading scorer on the Kings and leads the team in icetime and power-play assists.  He is second in power play points to Anze Kopitar’s 28, and is second in plus/minus and total assists. 

The overall play of Doughty through this season and the Olympics will continue rewarding those owners who may have taken him with late picks or free agency. A total of 60 points with 30 power-play points is easily within reach. 

On the Rise

Nicklas Lidstrom (7G, 30A, +20, 16 PIM, 149 SOG, 5 PPG, 8 PPA, 2 SHA)

A surprise name on the cold list for a good part of this year, Lidstrom has scored at his usual level recently.  In his first 40 games Lidstrom had one goal, 16 assists, one power play goal and three power play assists (hardly Lidstrom-type numbers) especially on the power play. Over the last 22 games Lidstrom has 6 goals, 14 assists, 4 power play goals and 5 power play assists, along with a +10.   

Lidstrom is still within range of 50 points, a statistical near low for him, but the Wings haven’t experienced a year this bad in a long time, with the power play ranked 15th (18.1%) and the offense at 2.54 goals per game (22nd).  

Joni Pitkanen (4G, 31A, (-14), 66 PIM, 132 SOG, 1 PPG, 15 PPA in 52 games)

After a dismal start, Carolina has reached some level of respectability, with a power play at 18% (18th) and total offense 15th (2.70 goals per game). Pitkanen is on track for one of his better seasons since 2005-06, when he had 46 points in 58 games. 

In his first 31 games Pitkanen had 2 goals, 16 assists, (-13), 36 PIMs, 75 shots on goal, one power play goal, and seven power play assists.  In the next 21 games he had 2 goals, 15 assists, (-1), 30 PIMs, 57 shots on goal, and eight power play assists. He leads the Canes in assists, power-play assists, and icetime. 

If the Canes do not gut their roster, Pitkanen’s plus/minus may not be in the minus as bad as it had been earlier in the season, making Pitkanen a solid contributor at all levels. Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter will not be traded, but if Ray Whitney ends up in another city, the overall effectiveness of this team may suffer. 

Drifting Down

Ed Jovanovski (10G, 19A, (-3), 51 PIM, 90 SOG, 5 PPG, 6 PPA, 2 SHA in 49 games)

After an incredible start Jovanovski has seen a reversal in his stats. In his first 30 games he had 7 goals, 14 assists, +8, 26 PIMs, 63 shots on goal, 4 power play goals, and 5 power play assists.  Over the last 19 games he has 3 goals, 5 assists, (-11), 25 PIMs, 27 shots on goal, one power play goal, one power play assist, and one shorthanded assist. Penalty minutes and shots on goal have never been an issue, but his plus/minus and power-play numbers have not been consistent for a good portion of his recent career. With the Coyotes’ power play way down in the rankings at 29th (15.2%), the recent numbers may be an indicator of the rest of the year, even with Jovanovski healthy. 

Potential

Andy Greene (5G, 20A, +8, 14 PIM, 63 SOG, 4 PPG, 8 PPA, 1 SHA)

New Jersey’s icetime leader and leading defense scorer has fallen upon hard times, but hopefully as Ilya Kovalchuk becomes more comfortable with the team, fortunes will change.  In his first 36 games Greene had 5 goals, 18 assists, +8, 6 PIMs, 40 shots on goal, 4 power play goals, and 7 power play assists. Over the last 22 games, he has 2 assists, 8 PIMs, 23 shots on goal, one power play assist, and one shorthanded assist. With Paul Martin not expected back yet, Greene is the defenseman focal point of the power play.  Keep tabs on Greene as his upside is high and he may currently be free agent material.

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