Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Injuries, Blocking Shots Will Remain in Vogue

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Injuries, Blocking Shots Will Remain in Vogue

Article excerpt

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was emphatic in his insistence after the Penguins' 6-2 loss against Philadelphia Sunday night that Conor Sheary - the most recent Penguins player to fall victim to an injury bug surging through the team - did not get hurt blocking a shot, as was initially speculated after Sheary left the game in the first period.

"That's misinformation already that I'm aware of," said Sullivan, who added that Sheary's injury came in the offensive zone.

Still, even if Sheary's injury didn't come on a blocked shot, going to the ice to prevent goals has been a bit of a double-edged sword for the Penguins this season. At least six players have missed time this season due to injury sustained while blocking shots.

Those have ranged from the minor - Mark Streit was taken to the hospital after leaving in the first period against Calgary two weeks ago but returned the next game - to more prolonged: Evgeni Malkin has missed six games in a row after going to the ice in the same contest against the Flames.

Some, such as Brian Dumoulin taking a puck to the face from the Los Angeles Kings' Marian Gaborik in December, have been incidental, but most have been part of an essential part of NHL team defense.

"Every team in the league blocks shots," Sullivan said. "It's just part of the game."

Even if the strategy is similar across the league, the Penguins tend to block more shots than most teams. They have 1,194 on the season, fifth-most in the NHL. From a percentage standpoint, the Penguins have blocked .281 of shot attempts against them in five-on-five situations this year, fourth-most in the league.

Defenseman Ian Cole has a franchise-record 181 blocked shots, third-most in the NHL, and Nick Bonino leads all NHL forwards with 94 this season.

Not only is it a sign of willingness to win, it can be an effective strategy, too.

"Every team is blocking in today's NHL, but Pittsburgh is very good at it," Flyers winger Jakub Voracek said last week.

"If they block the shot, you know the other wing is gone out of the zone."

Of course, there's also an inherent risk that comes with going to the ice, as many of the Penguins know all too well. …

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