Olli Maatta continues to be Steady Eddie for the Detroit Red Wings

Olli Maatta continues to fly under the radar for the Detroit Red Wings, but he's a valuable depth piece.

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He's mister reliable on Detroit's backend but goes about his business essentially in the shadows of his teammates. Olli Maatta is having another solid season for the Detroit Red Wings, skating as their sixth defenseman.

The veteran defender may not be flashy, but he finds a way to keep getting the job done and isn't asked to do an easy job. Maatta is counted on to stabilize and carry Detroit's third pairing during even-strength situations. The 29-year-old Finnish-born defender is often paired with Shayne Gostisbehere, who often struggles during five-on-five play.

Despite his defensive struggles, Gostisbehere has carved out a niche role with the Red Wings anchoring their power play unit. In fact, 22 of his 39 points on the year have come while on the power play. Gostisbehere leads Detroit defensemen in points this season, a mere seven ahead of Moritz Seider, yet the 30-year-old defender sports a team-worst minus-15 rating. Oddly enough, his defense partner, Maatta, owns a Red Wings best plus-18 rating, six better than Michael Rasmussen, who is second on the club. In fairness, over his past nine games, Gostisbehere is a plus-6 and has totaled two goals and seven points. So, things have been improving.

Olli Maatta continues to stabilize the Red Wings third pairing.

I understand that plus/minus isn't a critical statistic, and it's not looked upon as it once was, but it still carries a bit of merit. While he's on the ice during even-strength situations, Maatta is performing reasonably well, and it's flying under the radar. That said, watching Detroit's third pairing night in and night out, especially while on the road when the home team is granted the last change, that third pairing seemingly barely holds on while the ship is taking on water at times. It is enough to nearly give an onlooker a heart attack or ulcer.

Last Thursday, Maatta, a defensive defender, scored a pair of goals in Detroit's 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders, doubling his season total to date. Maatta sits with four goals and 15 points over 54 games while averaging just over 16 minutes per night for the Red Wings. He's also boasting a Corsi For Percentage of 49 this season to go with a career-best 4.6 Relative Corsi For Percentage during even-strength situations. Maatta's 1.1 points per 60/minutes this season is the second-best of his career. He totaled 1.3 points per 60/minutes as a 20-year-old in 2014-15, but he only played 20 games that year.

“I love the finish,” Lalonde said of the two-goal performance last Thursday. “When he’s got confidence with the puck, he’s a really good player,” Lalonde said. “He’s a guy that can find the middle of the ice on breakouts. That’s hard to do in this league. He was skating; he had confidence with the puck. He was great tonight.”

Maatta joined the Detroit Red Wings before the start of last season and performed so well that Steve Yzerman rewarded him with a two-year extension that averages $3 million annually. Maatta's defensive awareness paired nicely with Filip Hronek's offense-first tendency. Detroit hoped for more of the same by pairing Maatta with Gostisbehere this season, and although it hasn't gone flawless, things seem to be improving with that pairing. Gostisbehere is a pending free agent, and it looks as though Simon Edvinsson will soon be his replacement. Pairing Edvinsson with Maatta next season would be a great way to limit a youngster's responsibilities early on in the year and help break him in at the NHL level.

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