(Photo credit: http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=688259 )
Unless you've been sleep walking through the first 48 games the season, you might have noticed how well Pittsburgh Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta is playing. Heck, even if you've been putting the games on for background noise while you read the latest David Sedaris book, you've seen/heard how good this kid is. But for all those who still needed it, Olli was kind enough to give you a reason. Last night's game-winner against the Washington Capitals was to Maatta what Sidney Crosby's 2005 shootout goal against the Habs was to him. It was the moment when he became a bona fide NHL player and not just a nice story.
Olli Maatta's goal also ushered in not only the spotlight (at least for a night) but a campaign. With his solid defensive play and 16 points (four goals, 12 assists), Olli Maatta needs to be in consideration for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Not sold? Head coach Dan Bylsma said of his patience, "I have not seen that from a 19-year-old. He was pretty impressive tonight. You don't see a 19-year-old defenseman play with this kind of poise and composure."
Maatta said of his goal, "I've been working on (the shot fakes). It's something I really want to be on a blueline. It makes it harder to predict what I'm going to do there and block the shots."
What's harder than foreseeing what Maatta will do next? A defenseman winning the Calder Trophy. The NHL's rookie of the year award has been given out since the 1932-1933 season and a blueliner has taken home the hardware ten times. That's it. Only ten times in eighty-odd chances. Tyler Myers in 2009-2010 was the last one to do it, putting up 48 points (11 goals) in the 2009-2010 season for the Buffalo Sabres. Maatta is not going to get his total that high and that will kill his chances.
That and a guy named Nathan MacKinnon. The Colorado Avalanche have gone from basement dwellers to playoff team in under a year. New coach Patrick Roy is the biggest reason, but MacKinnon's production is helping too. The 18-year old Canadian has 15 goals and 16 assists and filthy speed. If the Avs make the postseason (and there's a chance they won't), the Calder is all MacKinnon's. If not . . . it'll still probably be his.
Regardless of his winning the trophy or not, Olli Maata has fully arrived in the NHL. And with the plague that has hit the d-core this season, his contributions are measureless. Now he's not going to run Kris Letang out of town, but the future of the Pens blueline is in pretty swell hands.
- Will the Clock Strike Midnight for Olli Maatta?
- Olli Maatta is the Catalyst to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Success
- Olli Maatta Scratched for Tuesday’s Game Against New Jersey
- Good News for Penguins Blueline, as Maatta is Staying in Pittsburgh and Letang’s Set to Make Season Debut
- Sidney Crosby’s Biggest Competitors for the Hart Memorial Trophy
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