PHILADELPHIA -- Two summers ago, the Penguins signed defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek to five year contracts, and last season they traded for Matt Niskanen. But, in their first-round series loss to the Flyers it became obvious -- painfully at times for the Penguins and their fans -- that they still need help on the back end.
Pittsburgh gave up 30 goals in the six-game series loss to the Flyers, including 12 on the power play, and not all of them can be attributed to the inconsistent play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup three years ago with Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi anchoring the defense and the penalty kill. They didn't have anybody as sturdy and consistent as those two against the Flyers and they got burned to the tune of five goals against per game.
Kris Letang and Niskanen are the exact type of offensive, puck-moving defensemen that a team with speed and talent up front like the Penguins need, but Brooks Orpik and Michalek didn't get enough help in the defensive role from guys like Deryk Engelland and Brian Strait.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma even tried to compensate by dressing seven defensemen for the last three games with Martin out with an undisclosed injury, but Simon Despres didn't have much of an effect on the games. And, in the two games he played, Ben Lovejoy showed he was not the answer as he struggled defensively and had a costly turnover.
If the Penguins are going to address a need in the offseason, it's on the blue line with a stay-at-home, solid, sturdy, and powerful defenseman. They needed a guy like that against the Flyers.