Newly acquired defenseman Erik Gudbranson fills stat sheet in Penguins debut
BUFFALO, N.Y. – By every metric publicly available to analyze the performance of a hockey player, newly acquired defenseman Erik Gudbranson was outstanding in his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Friday night.
Except for the most important one, of course: the final score.
Gudbranson filled the stat sheet in about 20 minutes of overtime, helping hold the fort as the Penguins played without four of their regular defensemen, but Conor Sheary scored in the final minute of overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 4-3 victory.
“Obviously wish we could have pulled that one in, but that’s hockey sometimes,” Gudbranson said. “They hung around and ended up sneaking one in at the end and winning in overtime.”
Gudbranson, who has a league-worst minus-28 rating this season, added one to that total on a play that had nothing to do with him in the first period. Marcus Pettersson turned a puck over to Jack Eichel for an even-strength goal on the other side of the ice.
Otherwise, his numbers were great.
On the traditional stat sheet, he had two shots, three hits and three blocked shots.
Analytically speaking, when he was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins had big advantages in shot attempts (22-7), unblocked shot attempts (18-4), shots (14-3), scoring chances (16-6) and high-danger scoring chances (5-2).
If he keeps that up, the voices critical of Monday’s trade with Vancouver will be quieted quickly.
“I thought he played really well,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He moved the puck. He was physical. You can see the edge he played with. I think he had a strong game.”
Gudbranson said he was nervous on his first few shifts, but the feeling quickly faded. He said he thinks it’s possible to take positives out of the overtime loss, even given his new team’s spot in the standings and the date on the calendar.
“I think we played really well,” Gudbranson said. “I thought we pretty much dominated that game. It’s tough not to get that extra point, but you’ve got to be happy with the effort level and use that frustration from the result to play a good game tomorrow.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .