Considering the response to Rick's last article, I'm guessing some will not be too happy with the next one. The draw for most of the ire was his hatred of Scuderi. Understandable, since Scuderi has been having a great season. While his contributions can not entirely be seen by statistics, I still wanted to see how he ranked in some defensive categories: blocked shots, give aways and take aways.
Blocked Shots: 67, good for 29th in the league. By comparison, Eaton, even though he's played 5 less games, has 89 which is 10th. Two guys Rick likes, Rob Blake (9th) and Adam Foote (12th) have blocked 91 and 85 shots respectively. Scuderi had 109 blocked shots last year, finishing 84th.
Give Aways/Take Aways: Scuds had 32 giveaways and 32 takeaways last year. The one to one ratio is actually pretty good as most defensemen have more giveaways than takeaways, often times even doubling up. Plus, the 32 takeaways put him at 44th in the league. This year he has 16 giveaways and 15 takeaways, nearly right on pace with last year.
Other than the blocked shots he hasn't shown any other statistical improvements. +/- has dropped slightly and so have his assists. This doesn't mean he hasn't improved. There are too many unrecorded aspects that go into a players' game, especially the type that Scuderi plays. He is playing more fundamental, as shown by the blocks, but also in not making killer mistakes. I could not find a statistic, but I remember him being involved with a few own goals and other less than positive plays at the end of last year. Add in the fact he has been playing with an offensively inept Sydor for the beginning of the season, and his lack of assists and slightly lower +/- make sense.
The type of jump in defensive consistency is equivalent to the Pirates finding that 4th starter that can steal you some games. That's not an insult at all; if the Buccos had a reliable 4th option behind Snell, Gorzo, and Maholm, 5-10 games would have had different outcomes. May not sound like much, but for the Pirates that's the difference between threatening .500 and finishing below 70 wins. For the Penguins, a defenseman like Scuderi stepping up is the difference between an early round exit and a deep playoff run. Scuderi was being called out at the end of last year as the weak link, and he's erased that thought so far. It's still too early to crown him a solid piece in the journey for the cup, but he, along with Conklin, have been pleasant surprises.
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