Penguins' Goligoski enjoys consistent success

| Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011

He is young, isn't overpaid, leads all Penguins' defenseman in goals and plus-minus, has displayed the ability to quarterback the power play and has been steady defensively.

Kris Letang, right?

Try Alex Goligoski.

While Letang has generated Norris Trophy buzz with his breakout campaign, Goligoski has quietly, consistently thrived this season. That wasn't the case last year.

"Maybe I got caught in the lull of the season," Goligoski said.

Goligoski led the NHL in plus-minus in October of '09 but then, because of injuries and the inexperience of never having played a full NHL season, declined.

The early success Goligoski enjoyed that year, along with the team's hot start, may have contributed to his troubles. In October of that season, the defending champs looked invincible and Goligoski had become a regular in the lineup. Life was good.

"When you get off to a great start like we did," Goligoski said, "I don't know. Maybe subconsciously you settle down and get (too) comfortable."

Don't call him Mr. October anymore.

Goligoski again started this season in strong fashion but hasn't endured a swoon. The Penguins' blue line has been a strong point all season, and Goligoski's play has been a crucial element. Although he isn't often asked to play against opposing teams' top lines like Letang, Goligoski has been solid defensively while putting up excellent offensive numbers.

In his second full NHL season, the 25-year-old from Minnesota has found the consistency that eluded him last year.

"He's been able to continue to stay focused to adding to his game," coach Dan Bylsma said.

No matter how well Goligoski plays, his name always seems to appear in trade rumors. The Penguins enjoy superb organizational strength on defense. Their top seven defensemen are all under contract through next season, and a number of talented youngsters — namely Simon DesPres, the team's best prospect — figure to be NHL-ready soon. With such a surplus of talent at one position, many believe the Penguins will unload a defenseman or two at some point to land a quality goal-scorer.

Ben Lovejoy, who is frequently paired with Goligoski, laughs at the notion.

"Well, I'm sure you could get a good player for him," Lovejoy said with a smile. "It would be a no-brainer for other NHL teams to want Alex Goligoski. He's just so good."

The way Goligoski has played this season, it might be a no-brainer for GM Ray Shero to keep him for the foreseeable future. He has emerged as a regular on the team's power play and appears to still be improving.

Goligoski isn't known for his defense, and while the number can be misleading, he is among the league's plus-minus leaders.

"He's not a physical, bruising defenseman," Lovejoy said. "But he doesn't have to be. He's able to play defense with his feet. He's an incredible skater. He's very impressive in the defensive zone."

Goligoski's offensive game speaks for itself. He is third among NHL defensemen with four game-winning goals and has been steady on the power play.

"He's a big factor on our power play right now," Bylsma said.

He has become a pretty big factor in every facet for the Penguins, and unlike last season, Goligoski isn't letting up after a fast start.

"I think it's just an experience thing," he said. "I feel really good."

Additional Information:

Go-Go going steady

Alex Goligoski's numbers, by the month:

October: 3 goals, 5 assists, plus-8

November: 2 goals, 3 assists, minus-1

December: 1 goal, 4 assists, plus-11

January: 3 goals, 5 assists, plus-3

February: 0 goals, 5 assists, minus-2

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