Grove: Dumoulin Means So Much To The Penguins

A Penguins’ defenseman. Leading the NHL. In plus-minus. Go ahead, let that sink in

Bob Grove
February 15, 2019 - 11:35 am

© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - In the swirl of Crosby vs. McDavid here on Wednesday night, in the aftermath of the Evgeni Malkin suspension, amidst the spotlight of another superb performance by Matt Murray, something else happened during the Penguins’ home victory over Edmonton.

Brian Dumoulin had a great game.

Since this happens most of the time, it’s not really news. Nothing to see here. Move along. Right?

Well, let’s pause and consider just what Dumoulin has meant to the Penguins since he was acquired at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. That’s when Carolina GM Jim Rutherford traded Dumoulin, Brandon Sutter and a first-round draft pick to the Penguins for Jordan Staal. That night, the buzz was all about that pick, which the Penguins used to take defenseman Derrick Pouliot, and Sutter. Dumoulin? It’s not fair to say he was an afterthought – he certainly wasn’t to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero – but on that night he was just a college defenseman who might turn into something.

Now he has turned into something. Pouliot is gone. Sutter is gone. Dumoulin is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. A steadying presence on the Penguins’ defense. A pillar of defensive consistency on a team that needs him. A guy you can depend on.

You probably remember the Bryan Rust short-handed goal that tied the game Wednesday and started the Pittsburgh comeback from a 1-0 deficit. You might remember that Matt Cullen set it up. You may not remember the Dumoulin play to knock the puck away from McDavid and start the whole sequence.

For many, the memory of that Dumoulin play was probably washed away by what Rust did a few moments later. For the record, it resulted in the 19th point of the season for Dumoulin – a career single-season high with 25 games yet to play. Yes, he’s evolved to help out a bit more on the offensive side. And no, that’s still not his strength.

For most of his career here, the Maine native – the only Maine native ever to play for the team, by the way – has been the stay-at-home presence that allows Kris Letang to take the chances and make the plays that have helped Letang become the most prolific scoring defenseman in team history. Dumoulin is the guy on the back end making other plays that get forgotten, like his breakup of a McDavid pass in the third period that had game-tying goal written all over it.

Dumoulin and Letang have been the Penguins’ shutdown pair now for several seasons, which gets overlooked on a team that gives up a fair amount of goals but wows most of the time because of the guys who score them. In this environment, it’s significant to note something about Dumoulin: he shares the NHL lead in plus-minus at +29 with Calgary’s Mark Giordano, who will be in town Saturday afternoon.

A Penguins’ defenseman. Leading the NHL. In plus-minus. Go ahead, let that sink in. And no, no Pittsburgh defenseman has ever finished a season in that position (Larry Murphy was second to Mario in 1992-93). And don’t bother me reiterating the imperfections of plus-minus. I get it, but here’s the reality: when the Penguins are playing at even strength and Dumoulin is on the ice, a Pittsburgh goal is more likely than an opposition goal. That’s something a coach can bank on.

In a season of inconsistency from the Penguins, this seems like a good time to celebrate the just-another-solid-night reality that is Brian Dumoulin. He also reached 300 NHL games Wednesday. By the way, there’s plenty more to come.

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