In five games, Robert Bortuzzo is showing why the organization opted to keep him over the likes of Brian Strait and Ben Lovejoy. He brings elements the Penguins have lacked on their blueline and he’s a unique defenseman at 6-foot-4 who plays physical and can skate well.
Bortuzzo made his mark Thursday night vs the Capitals, seeing 16:59 of ice time, a season high, and had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot.
The physical element of providing “grit” has been on display in all five games this season, but it stood out vs the Capitals as Bortuzzo was physical with Alexander Ovechkin in the third period. Bortuzzo looks to make it difficult on the opposition and he’s fit the scouting report on him to perfection.
“That’s one of the things Robert brings to the table,” Bylsma said of the physical element. “He’s a bigger body guy, little bit lanky but has some sand paper to his game. When he turned pro first 25 games, fought pretty much every tough guy in AHL.”
Bortuzzo is going to be a tough player to take out of the lineup when the Penguins get fully healthy.
“He’s got some grit, sandpaper, really good defender, been a shutdown defender for last two years in Wilkes Barre, and he does it with a big stick, grit, sandpaper and you saw it tonight, both in how he defended and the physical play he has, and he has a little bite to his game and brought that tonight,” Bylsma said. “Defending Ovechkin numerous times and that’s what he brings, and what really differentiates him from what the other defensemen have. He has bite of what Deryk Engelland has bite.”
Despite the 8-3-0, 16 pts, start, toughness has been an area of concern for the Penguins and it still as, in particular on the third and fourth lines but Bylsma was very pleased in that area last night.
“I liked the way we defended, the jam in which we played,” Bylsma said. “Wasn’t just Robert {Bortuzzo} and Deryk Engelland. Brooks Orpik, Tanner Glass. Our team does have some bite to our game.”
Bylsma was also pleased last night with how the Penguins defended their lead.
“Something we really want to get better at is playing with leads,” Bylsma said. “They came hard, came at us, had a hard forecheck and we dealt with it. I thought we did a good job and continued to do a good job with the lead in the third period and we had all four lines going.”


If you poll 10 scouts, it’s a good bet all 10 will say Brian Strait and Ben Lovejoy are both better players than Dylan Reese.
However, the lockout helped the organization’s view of Reese as Bylsma was able to do his share of scouting trips in Wilkes Barre and as I wrote on December 2nd, Reese was making a good impression on Bylsma and at the time what Bylsma was said to feel about Reese is that he can trust him on the ice as he has a high hockey IQ.
Ben Lovejoy might be the better player but there’s not a huge difference, and watching Reese this season in their system, I think Bylsma and the Penguins as a whole feel comfortable enough in Reese being able to a fill in for a couple games when injuries pop up, that it also played a part in them moving Lovejoy now instead of waiting until Matt Niskanen got healthy.
Reese who played 14:07 and had 2 blocked shots, earned high praise from Bylsma.
“I thought he {Dylan Reese} was outstanding,” Bylsma said. “Dylan came in, thought he did real well, He’s a skating guy, went back for pucks, did a lot of good things of alleviating pressure,” Bylsma said.