Penguins Predictions: Will Brian Dumoulin step into the spotlight?
Sidney Crosby had 100 points. Jake Guentzel scored 40 goals. Kris Letang gave a strong bounceback performance.
Those are loud.
Know who had a quietly excellent season for the Pittsburgh Penguins last year?
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
When Dumoulin was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outscored their opponents, 83-57. His plus-31 rating was fifth-best in the league.
But wait, there’s more. That plus-31 was actually the ninth-best plus-minus figure in the 50-plus year history of the franchise. Among Penguins defensemen, only Larry Murphy (twice), Ulf Samuelsson and Matt Niskanen had a better full season rating.
Because Dumoulin’s contributions aren’t the type that put him in the spotlight, his outstanding season played out in relative anonymity. In fact, his name didn’t appear in the headline of a game story in the Tribune-Review even once all year long.
To further illustrate that point, let’s look at the three games in which Dumoulin scored a goal last season.
• On Nov. 10, he scored the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory over Arizona. The headline was about how Sidney Crosby had his hand in three second-period goals.
• On Feb. 17, he scored in the second period of a 6-5 win over the Rangers. He was mentioned in the headline, but not by name. The story noted that the Penguins got four goals from defensemen in one game for the first time since 1990. Dumoulin had to share the spotlight.
• On March 14, he scored the second goal in a 5-0 win over Buffalo. The headline was about Casey DeSmith pitching a 26-save shutout in his first start in almost a month.
Even when he did make a splashy play, someone else splashed bigger.
Will Brian Dumoulin’s name appear in the headline of a game story in the Tribune-Review this season?
A. Nope. He will remain unsung.
It’s important to consider the players Dumoulin spends the most time with on the ice. Last season, he played 1,066 minutes with Letang, 628 minutes with Crosby and 620 minutes with Guentzel. He didn’t play with anyone else for more than 500 minutes. These are hard players to outshine, especially for a player whose contributions are usually made in the defensive zone.
B. Yes, but only once.
Spending most of his on-ice time with the team’s stars is a double-edged sword. Yes, those players are more likely to overshadow Dumoulin, but they’re also more likely to put him in a position to score an important goal that could turn him into headline news. Take Dumoulin’s three goals last season. Crosby had the primary assist for the first two and Evgeni Malkin set up the other. These brushes with greatness are bound to bring some notoriety to Dumoulin at least once.
C. Yes. More than once.
Dumoulin doesn’t score many goals, but he does have a flair for the dramatic. Most people remember Letang’s goal that gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in a Cup-clinching Game 6 win in San Jose in 2016. Fewer remember that Dumoulin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period. Dumoulin also scored in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa in 2017. Guys who are clutch get their names in the paper more than once.
C. Yes. More than once.
The lack of publicity surrounding Dumoulin is probably more an indictment of the sports media, which is easily distracted by shiny objects, than his play on the ice. He’s a legit top-pair defenseman playing with world-class talent on a high-profile team. There’s no way he keeps his name out of the headlines for too much longer.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .