Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta is ready to return from injury. He will be a game-time decision on Friday night against the Nashville Predators. Maatta has not played since February 11 against the Philadelphia Flyers on the road.
In 55 games this season, he has scored one goal and recorded 12 assists. His plus/minus is 7. Olli Maatta’s play goes beyond the numbers.
It is no accident that the defense has played better in his absence. One of the players that has benefited from it is Jack Johnson. Johnson was terrible early in the season, but he has played so much better ever since.
Jack Johnson has been so much better with Justin Schultz on defense. Schultz is a much better defensive player than Maatta is. Johnson was with him earlier in the season and it was a total disaster. Maybe the reason he played so awful was maybe because Olli Maatta was out of position so many times and Jack Johnson had to fill in Maatta’s position.
He is not a very fast skater and he isn’t worth $4 million. At 24 years old, Olli Maatta should be much better than he actually is. I have no problem with him possibly returning this weekend and if it for Zach Trotman, that is acceptable.
What won’t be acceptable is when Kris Letang returns to the lineup and he has to replace either Jack Johnson or Erik Gudbrandson. Gudbrandson has been very good ever since being acquired in a trade from the Vancouver Canucks.
The defensive pairings for the postseason should be: Kris Letang-Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz-Jack Johnson, and Marcus Pettersson-Eric Gudbrandson.
Olli Maatta should be the odd man out when everyone is healthy. It is very well possible the defensive unit will go south if he is in the lineup for the rest of the season and the postseason.
The east will be brutal as it is in the postseason and the Pittsburgh Penguins need all the right pieces in the lineup in order to compete for another Stanley Cup title.