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Insider Only Dead-weight in bottom-6, Sprong’s East-West Play, Olli Maatta & More Buzz

Biggest takeaway from Pittsburgh’s 5-1 loss to the Devils:

Not to sound like a broken record, but just like the Leafs game highlighted, there is way too much deadweight in the bottom-6 to make up ground when the top-2 lines and the power play are held in check.

Monday night was more of the same.

Pittsburgh continues to get zero offense from Riley Sheehan/Matt Cullen down the middle, both showing no ability to create individual offense, a major attribute each player lacks, Derek Grant another center by trade is a meh player and Daniel Sprong is not playing anywhere close to an NHL level player.

Sprong’s poor play is beyond the coaches not finding him enough minutes. He doesn’t deserve any.

Sprong was supposed to be that needed skill element on the 4th line and he’s showing no ability to provide it.

As mentioned before, Sprong’s east-west game is a major problem in a north-south league and it continues to be maddening.

Here was one play in the third period that stood out vs the Devils.

Sprong enters the zone down the left side, fails to be any kind of threat to drive the d-man back and takes himself completely out of any position for any chance at a high percentage shot, not to mention, the lack of vision is also on display in failing to see Jamie Oleksiak coming down the right side.

With the shot Sprong apparently has, right when he hits that left circle, he needs to fire a wrist shot by using the d-man as a screen or make a quick play and hit Oleksiak trailing the play with a pass down the right side.

These are situations constant in Sprong’s game where he’s not reading the ice well and taking himself out of position in what should be clear cut shot opportunities.

This is the primary reason he’s rarely a threat to score. It’s not the coaches.


— Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan have a great relationship and it’s why Sullivan is often willing to give some of Rutherford’s lineup ideas a chance.

There’s nothing wrong with that, though, whispers in the organization is that Rutherford has made attempts Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Rutherford has pushed strongly Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" and I don’t buy for a second that it was the coaches idea to play Jack Johnson in a top pairing role last night.

That’s something sources say Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

The coaches wanted Zach Aston-Reese, who has six goals in 11 games for WBS, on the roster for the start of season, but a week before the regular season started, the decision was taken out of the coaching staff’s hand and they were informed Aston-Reese would start in WBS.

Aston-Reese in Wilkes Barre is a product of the Derek Grant signing taking up a roster spot that should have went to a younger player or player who is an actual winger like Aston-Reese who provides an element the Penguins bottom-6 lacks right now, getting to the tough areas.

It’s still early but things could be headed where the Penguins had a second straight poor off-season with the Johnson signing and opting to flood the bottom-6 of 4th line caliber centers with the Sheahan, Cullen and Grant signings.


Some awful numbers for Olli Maatta vs the Devils.

On the ice for 3 goals against, a dreadful 30% in possession (11/25), while Pittsburgh was out-shot 8-16 when Maatta was on the ice and out-chanced 12-4.

Maatta was on the ice for a whopping 9 high danger chances against, per Naturalstattrick.

It gets overlooked but Pittsburgh giving a six year commitment to Maatta in 2016 has become a major mistake.

Too many GM’s jump the gun in trying to pay young players for what they believe the player will become.

When you’re a team ran like the Penguins are, in Stanley Cup mode up against the cap, you don’t need to do that for non-core players.

This was a case with Maatta.

Pittsburgh at the time believed his decline in play was more health/injury related than anything.

Maatta just hasn’t found a way to properly compensate for his lack of skating ability in what is becoming a faster and faster league.

I’ve stated before there’s some scouts out there who believe Maatta would benefit Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"


— How good is Brian Dumoulin?

In a game the Penguins lost 5-1 and were outscored 3-1 during 5 vs 5 play, Dumoulin was on the ice for 0 goals against, was at 70% in possession and 82% in Scoring Chance For Percentage (14/3).

All of this while paired with a No. 7 level defenseman. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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