When Christian Ehrhoff was signed to a one-year, $4 million dollar deal on the first day of Free Agent Frenzy by the Pittsburgh Penguins, on paper, their defense had improved tremendously. It was no secret going into that day that Matt Niskanen and more than likely, Brooks Orpik were both going to be on the move and newly minted general manager Jim Rutherford needed to add a veteran presence to the blueline. He did just that with the German-born blueliner, who is in his 11th NHL season with his fourth NHL squad.
In the off-season, it was thought that Ehrhoff would be slotted with Kris Letang to form a dominant top two pairing. While the pairing worked for the first few games, the pairing was split up where Ehrhoff would be paired with Paul Martin and at times, Rob Scuderi. The mismatch in styles and discomfort in the system was apparent and noticeable for the first quarter of the season, however, Ehrhoff has recently had a bit of a rejuvenation in his game.
The 6-foot-2, 205 pound defenseman has recently been paired up with Olli Maatta and has looked remarkably comfortable with the 2o year old sophomore sensation. Ehrhoff capped off a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators blasting home a slapshot from the near circle with sniper-like precision, placing the bomb over Craig Anderson’s left shoulder and underneath the crossbar with less than two minutes remaining. He was named the First Star of the Game with his second goal in four games.
Ehrhoff notched his first point as a Penguin in the second game of the young season over the Toronto Maple Leafs and would pick up scattered assists here and there throughout the campaign. Ehrhoff, who is known to have a booming slapshot, did not score his first goal in the black and gold until the November 29 tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes, which proved to be the game winner.
His second goal of the season, today against Ottawa, was no different. It was another game-winning goal, a category in which Ehrhoff leads defenseman in over the past six seasons (17). He is currently tenth in team scoring (2G, 7A) and second for defenseman, trailing the injured Kris Letang (4G, 14A). He also leads the team in plus-minus with a plus-13 in 26 games.
He is also one of the most consistent players on the team in terms of registering shots. He has at least Over the last several contests, Ehrhoff has been getting the puck on net, accumulating 15 shots in the last five contests. He registered seven alone against the Ottawa Senators, who allow roughly 35 shots per game. The Penguins racked up 33. Going by that logic, he recorded a fifth of the team’s shots in the Saturday matinee contest.
That is something you do not see often with this Penguins team; a defenseman leading the team in shots for a game.
With Christian Ehrhoff finally looking comfortable in Pittsburgh and playing the same way, all of the early season criticisms of Ehrhoff can slowly and silently be retracted. The Blitzkrieg Blueliner is a stable presence on the backend and is filling in quite well for Letang on the offensive end. One would like to see Ehrhoff see more time on the power play as that was his specialty in Vancouver and Buffalo. He only has one point on the man-advantage, an assist coming on November 1 versus his former squad, the Buffalo Sabres.
The deal in the off-season had Penguins faithful excited, but disappointed early in Ehrhoff’s play. As he begins to evolve in the system and continue his strong play, one cannot deny his presence and potential impact he can make going into the playoffs.
The question also arises on whether or not Ehrhoff returns to Pittsburgh at season’s end. The Penguins and Ehrhoff will cross that bridge, or three, when the time presents itself, but for now, enjoy what No. 10 brings to the table for this years Penguins team.