The start of the 17-18 NHL season has not been favorable for the Penguins in terms of goals against and defensive depth. The Penguins dealt with their fair share of injuries through the first month, with Ian Cole and Justin Schultz going down it was obvious the team did not have many options to back up their wary blue line. For the Penguins though, depth has not been an issue and that is the main reason they won back-to-back Stanley Cups. On the front end, they bring in players that are low-end prospects who seem to elevate their performances. Now, on the backend, Brian Dumoulin, Oil Maatta, and Ian Cole play more significant roles than anyone imagined, and they have not been great nor terrible at best these three players we can categorize as mediocre. Hadn’t they get lucky on Justin Schultz, I’m not too sure how successful the Penguins would be.
Injuries are going to come that is inevitable, and the Penguins know that but are not prepared for it to happen, they have their six defensemen, well five, I am not too sure on Chad Ruhwedel yet, but if the same instance occurs again like it did in the beginning of the year, the Penguins will be struggling to stay afloat the top of the league. Perhaps any of their top four defensemen go down, who is there to call on? Chris Summer, Jarred Tinordi, the Penguins have a few defensive players in their AHL system but not players that are capable of making that transition to the NHL right away. Since the Penguins have lacked the defensive depth they currently rank second for goals against with 71. At this rate, the Penguins are allowing 3.5 goals against per game, not something we expected from the former Stanley Cup champs.
Right now, you look at this Penguins backend and you are content but the first major injury that occurs this team will be struggling immensely as we saw earlier in the year and as it continues. Without Schultz or Cole, the Penguins defense struggled as we see with the 71 goals against at this point only 19 games in.
The two biggest concerns for me though are the Penguins have four defensemen locked in making $4 million or more a year until 2020-21, two of them being Brian Dumoulin and Oil Maatta, who have not been the most exceptional top-four defenseman. Next is the play of Matt Murray, I mean just plain and simple Murray has been bad and I don’t care what the advanced stats say, he is rolling with a 2.98 goals against and .903 save percentage, pretty horrid for a number goaltender, especially a number one goaltender that is young and the Penguins invested their future into. If this continues and Murray continues to play poorly the Penguins offense will need to be scoring four or more goals per game to win.