Monday night’s game against the Washington Capitals proved to be interesting for both the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins with Brooks Orpik suspended for three games and Olli Maatta out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. The Penguins filled their empty defensive spot with Derrick Pouliot, who was recalled from Wilkes Barre/Scranton earlier this season.
There was a chance, however, for the Penguins to play defenseman Justin Schultz instead of Pouliot. Was Pouliot the right decision? With Kris Letang being the main Penguin’s defenseman, it is crucial that the player that fills Maatta’s skates has good chemistry with their line.
The 2015-16 season is the first season that Schultz is playing for the Penguins after completing four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. The Penguins received the defenseman in the 2016 third-round draft pick. So far in his time with the Penguins, Schultz has 18 regular season total points, as well as 82 shots on goal.
“He’s a guy who can help us get out of our end zone. He’s got a real nice shot, he can join the rush and he can play on the power play,” Coach Mike Sullivan told the Tribune Review. “So he has the ability to help us in a lot of areas.”
Pouliot, on the other hand, had a little bit of time with the Penguins in the 2014-15 season, but has been able to prove his worth of an NHL spot this season. So far this season, the defenseman has seven total points and 25 shots on goal. Neither player has been in the team’s lineup since the beginning of the postseason.
So who is the better choice? Each player adds depth to the team that makes them an excellent choice to fill Maatta’s spot for the time being. Having to choose between two players who have little time playing for the Penguins during a postseason situation makes the decision even more difficult.
Despite the decision of the Penguins to play Pouliot, is seems obvious that Schultz should be playing in this round. Schultz has more defensive experience, and in his short time with the Penguins, he has more combined points than Pouliot. Due to his previous experience, Schultz is able to work in various situations and would mesh well with Carl Hagelin, who is also known for his speed.