As the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp begins, Coach Mike Sullivan is trying out some new forward and defensive combinations.
One of the most intriguing pairings is the newly formed second defensive pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Jeff Petry. The long-standing top pairing of Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang is looking for a bounce-back campaign, with the rest of the defensive corps looking to raise their play from last year. With this newly appointed partnership with Pettersson and Petry, it seems the Penguins may finally have the making of a new shut-down pairing on defense.
What Can The Pair Bring?
In the first days of Penguins training camp, Petry and Pettersson have looked like a perfect match. Jeff Petry, after a tough season in Montreal, has turned the page and embraced the new opportunity in Pittsburgh. By pairing him with Pettersson, Coach Sullivan is looking to maximize Petry’s two-way effectiveness.
Marcus Pettersson does one thing incredibly well as a defender: stifling opposing offense’s zone entries. He has an incredibly active stick when defending the blue line is able to deflect and intercept passes and start the Penguins’ offensive breakout.
Pettersson’s skill of disrupting opposing offensive pressure will complement Jeff Petry’s game. Petry’s defensive strengths are in his physical play around the net and using his intelligence to anticipate plays and block shots. He registered 140 hits with the Canadiens and blocked 117 shots as well. Those stats would’ve ranked second and third amongst Penguins defensemen last season respectively.
The hope with this pairing is that Petry and Pettersson can turn into a shutdown pairing. With Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin playing in nearly every situation for the Penguins the last couple seasons, they have desperately lacked another reliable pair. Having another pairing Coach Sullivan can trust to deploy against opposing team’s top offensive lines will decrease Letang’s ice time and help get the most out of the rest of the defensemen in the lineup.
Petry’s Offensive Revival
While this duo will be called on to provide consistent defense, the pairing of Marcus Pettersson with Jeff Petry is also designed to help Petry find his offensive game again. After four straight 40-point seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Petry’s offensive game regressed last season to only 27 points. Looking for a return to form, Petry’s game should flourish playing next to Marcus Pettersson. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Petry score 30-40 points in his first year in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins look to have their top two defensive pairings set early into training camp. The bottom pairing will be a dog fight for the final two spots, but the pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Jeff Petry are building chemistry already. Heading into their first season playing together, it’s clear already that expectations are very high for them.
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