Four years and one Stanley Cup ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins made the difficult business decision of not retaining free agent defenseman Rob Scuderi. The team couldn't afford to pay the Long Island, New York native the top money he was deserving of. Heck, anyone watching Stanley Cup Games six and seven wouldn't argue against undercutting him. Scuderi was brillant. He gave Fleury backside assistance (ask Johan Franzen) and cleared pucks like a machine programmed to clear pucks. Along with Max Talbot, he was a hero of Game Seven and that's why his departure was a unpopular move. On July 5th, general manger Ray Shero atoned for it when he brought Scuds back to the Steel City.
In his four year absence, Rob Scuderi continued doing what he does best; be solid along the blue line, play extra goalie in front of the net, and win Stanley Cups. Don't be mistaken. The former two lead directly to the latter. That's why the Los Angeles Kings paid him $13.6 million dollars in 2009. And that's why the Penguins signed him for $13.5 million. A player of Scuds's creed doesn't make bank on scoring goals (he had three in four years with the Pens and four in four with the Kings) No, his paycheck is build around the non-glamorous aspects of hockey.
It's cliche, but it's cliche because it's true. Defense wins championships. If the additions of Scuderi and new assisant coach Jacques Martin indicate anything, its that the Penguins are buying into that notion.
The Penguins have no shortage of offense . . . duh. They're loaded with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are backed up by lethal sleepers James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis. This powerhouse offense has masked a problem of inconsistent defensive play. The Pens have lead the NHL in goals scored the last two seasons. In those same two years, the Pens finished fifteenth and twelfth respectively in goals against. During those same seasons, the Los Angeles Kings finished second (winning the Cup) and eighth (going to the Western Conference Finals) in goals against. So is Rob Scuderi really 'The Piece'?
Yes and no. The Kings have built their team around defense. Scuds was in a core of guys the likes of Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, and forward Dustin Brown. But, the Kings philosophy regarding defense is something the Penguins should copy. Coaches need to pick Scuderi's mind for new tactics the team can steal. It's a copycat world, so no snickering.
The Penguins don't have a problem scoring. True, the Boston series was a disaster offensively, but the Bruins forwards played outstanding defense. Oh, and that team won a Cup in 2010. See a pattern? The Boston series wasn't a fluke. It showed that when the Penguins don't score, they have trouble stopping others from. Scuds and Martin have some work to do.
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