Penguins Update: Time to Sit Scuderi – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Time to Sit Scuderi

Few decisions in sports are more gut-wrenching than choosing whether or not to bench a time-honored veteran. But the Penguins face such a dilemma with defenseman Rob Scuderi.

pp0454To put things in perspective, the black and gold never would have hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2009 without Scuderi. Who can forget his game-saving play in the waning seconds of Game 6 during the Finals? With Marc-Andre Fleury marooned at the post and the Pens’ playoff lives literally hanging by a thread, “Scuds” dropped to the ice and stopped not one, not two, but three shots by big Johan Franzen.

Indeed, when GM Ray Shero inked Scuderi to a new four-year deal last summer, he admitted it was a mistake to let the Syosset, New York native walk following the Cup victory.

Sadly, things haven’t quite worked out for the Penguins hero the second time around. Once the very symbol of rock-rib reliability, No. 4 has struggled since his return.

A case in point. During a critical juncture in Game 1 on Wednesday night Scuderi tried to clear the puck up the glass. It hit a stanchion, ricocheted back in the direction of the Pens’ net and nearly led to a Blue Jackets goal.

Could happen to anyone, right? Unfortunately, plays like that have become the norm for the former defensive stalwart. He has difficulty clearing the puck and his skating—never a strong suit—has deteriorated to the point where opposing forwards blow past him with frightening regularity.

It seems that age (he’s 35) and the fractured ankle he suffered on October 26 against Toronto have caught up with him. Prior to the injury Scuderi was a plus-5. In 42 regular-season games since his return he’s been minus-13.

It’s tough to watch, especially when you consider what a first-rate guy he is. Nobody works harder or sacrifices as much. And no one provides more leadership, shows more heart or sets a better example for the younger players. But he’s getting by mostly on guile and guts.

The Pens could sorely use Robert Bortuzzo’s youth, size and muscle against a very physical Blue Jackets team (48 hits in Game 1). However distasteful it may be, it’s time to sit Scuderi.

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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    April 20, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    ( Sarcasim ) …WOW the boy’s looked really good in game 2

  2. April 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Free Stream from NHL Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets!

  3. florida penguin's Gravatar florida penguin
    April 18, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Scuderi has been horrible this season. He has more deflection goals into our net than any other d-man.

  4. April 18, 2014 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    It’s Coach here. If we make a list of everyone that should be benched based on recent play, we wouldn’t have much of a team left.

    As for the defense, the best defense I think we saw this season was when Niskanen was our veteran and Maatta was the second most experienced. The other four were call-ups with a total number of NHL games between them that they could be counted on two hands. (This will be included in a post that I “plan” to get up this weekend) We had a lot of debuts during that time. Including Zatkoff’s, which ending up being a shutout.

    So, let’s call up the Baby Pens! Oh, WBS kind of needs hem right now.

    Maybe Scuderi does need to sit, maybe Orpik, maybe Letang? There’s plenty of blame to go around. Niskanen and Maatta are our most reliable defensemen right now, other than that…

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 18, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Hey Coach,

      You make a good point. There are plenty of culprits for the Pens’ less-than-stellar defensive play. Orpik and Scuderi have a lot of hard miles on them and it’s beginning to show. The F3 forward—a hidden element in the team’s defensive scheme—were missing their assignments. And Letang played as if he forgot to bring his brain to the rink.

      I don’t mean to seem like I’m picking on Scuderi. But I think Bortuzzo needs to be in the mix against a very physical Columbus team. And I feel, based on his play over the past couple of months, Scuds is the weakest link.

      By the way, your Penguins vs. Blue Jackets prediction was outstanding.

  5. Rob's Gravatar Rob
    April 18, 2014 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Right- Never been a huge fan but I figured if Ididn’t hear his name he was doing his job. I’ve been hearing his name TONS and not for good reason. Also Mr. Rivers…You must be a ‘Jackets fan. That or an idiot.

  6. MATT's Gravatar MATT
    April 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Seriously after seeing that game can you say Kris Letang needs to be on the ice .
    How about Brooks Orpik he looks like he’s 100 years old out there.
    Many needs on defense but these 2 must come first.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Hey Matt,

      Having just returned from a stroke, I’m trying to give Letang the benefit of the doubt. You’re right–he played it (way too) fast and loose in the series opener, took dumb penalties, and got torched on the shorty.

      Still, I think Tanger’s upside outweighs his shortcomings. Plus, he’s able to skate and move the puck.

      There’s no question Orpik has slipped a bit. Like Scuderi, he looks lost at times on plays around the net. But he’s more mobile than Scuds, handles the puck a little better, and still is capable of rattling an opponent with a big hit now and then.

  7. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    April 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    While I personally think Letang is the team poster boy for errant play, I think the case has long been made that Scuderi can no longer keep up. He might keep up with Douglas Murray, or Hal Gil, and he just may see one of them in the playoffs if we advance, but why court a potential problem when you have solutions watching from the box? Sure, you hate to see it, I do, but what else can be done if the team is serious about a deep cup run? That won’t happen without solid defense, which, by the way, we didn’t see much of in game one.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point,

      I’m worried about the Pens’ defensive play down low around Fleury. That’s part of the reason I’d like to see Bortuzzo in the mix. He’ll move guys away from the net.

      I may have been off-base calling Scuderi the poster boy for error-prone play. But he’s certainly been struggling. I wonder if the ankle’s still bothering him.

  8. Sandi's Gravatar Sandi
    April 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Niskinan is our best defender now but certainly not highest on payroll! Hope we can keep him.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2014 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      Hey Sandi,

      Matt Niskanen has been superb. Through all the injuries and the ups and downs, he’s been solid as a rock in every facet of his game. With 10 goals, 46 points and a plus-33 (best among NHL defensemen) it isn’t far-fetched to suggest that he deserves Norris Trophy consideration. And to think a lot of people (including me) thought Ray Shero would trade him last summer. Thank goodness he didn’t.

      Like you, I would love to see the Pens re-sign Niskanen. But conventional wisdom suggests that another team will make him an offer that Shero won’t be able to match.

  9. April 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I was talking to Reg Dunlop the other day about who the odd man out on defense was when all are healthy and we both decided it was Scuderi, though Letang seemed to be trying his hardest to win the honor of odd man out last night.

    The big question is: Does Bylsma have the balls to sit a 13.5 mil for 4yr Ray Shero signing? Last year Bylsma proved he didn’t have the kahunas by not benching the slow plodding Murray.

    In Shero’s defense Scuderi was a good signing. How was he to know Maatta was going to be that good that fast or that Bortuzzo would improve his skating skills and physical play.

    Scuderi does need a chance to prove himself though. He seems to kick it up a notch in the playoffs. The last two years with the Kings he has been a minus going into the playoffs and plus nine both of his last two playoff runs. One resulted in a Cup. Many nights he’s lined up against the best out there.

    Everyone knows defensive experience is huge in the playoffs. Bylsma needs to test him this series and keep him on a short leash. If he can’t keep up, the Pens have two worthy defensemen waiting in the wings.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      First let me say that I have the utmost respect for Rob Scuderi. I sincerely hope that’s reflected in my write-up. He’s revered as one of the Pens all-time greats, and rightfully so.

      Like you, I was pleased when Shero signed him over the summer. Since speed never was a hallmark of his game, I wasn’t overly concerned about the length of the contract. And I thought he was fine through the early part of the season.

      It wasn’t until he came back from the ankle injury that I noticed a significant downturn in his play. He seemed a step (or two) slow. Understandable, given the type of injury he had.

      Unfortunately, he hasn’t bounced back from it. As the minuses started to pile up, I made it a point to focus on him. I was shocked at how slow he looked and how much he struggled to keep up with plays around the net. I also began to pay more attention to his outlet passes which—more often than not—are simple chips to (hopefully) open ice.

      Again, I love Scuderi. I’ve always considered him a warrior—the kind of guy you want next to you in a foxhole. And I’m fully aware the Pens aren’t paying him $3.375 mil to watch games from the owner’s box. But you want to put your very best team on the ice in the playoffs. And I’m not sure playing Scuderi over Bortuzzo makes the Pens a better team.

      Maybe, as you suggest, “Scuds” will settle down and revert to his past playoff form, which was terrific. I hope so.

  10. Krid's Gravatar Krid
    April 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    You nailed it! The same applies to Adams.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Adams and Scuderi are the same type of players. Each provides a ton of intangibles–heart, leadership, guts, and smarts. I just don’t know if they can get the job done anymore–at least not on a regular basis.

      A hidden issue with the Pens–a lot of the leaders are aging.

  11. April 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Orpik first.

  12. Jeremy's Gravatar Jeremy
    April 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Letang and Martin were horrible last night

    • florida penguin's Gravatar florida penguin
      April 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Orpik was clearly oblivious to Martin’s defensive gaffe on the 1st goal as he was out of position and facing the wrong direction.


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