After an incredible rookie season in which he posted some of the league’s best defensive impacts from the blue line, John Marino has been nothing short of a disaster in his sophomore campaign.
Though some fans were optimistic Marino could supplant Kris Letang as the team’s number one defenseman as soon as this season, more level-headed fans knew that might be a lot to ask of him, especially considering his lack of offensive play driving despite putting up solid primary point rates.
Here’s an overview of Marino’s rookie season courtesy of JFreshHockey and TopDownHockey:
Marino was so good in his rookie campaign that he finished sixth among NHL d-men in expected even-strength defense goals above replacement (xEVD), per Evolving Hockey. He also finished in the top 30 in wins above replacement (WAR) with 1.9.
Even if Marino’s offensive game didn’t take some positive leaps this season, it was still expected that he would be the Pens’ most reliable defensemen in their own zone.
That couldn’t be further from reality, as Marino has been the team’s worst defensive d-man through 22 games.
Not only has he been brutal in his own zone, the Penguins are expected to score just 2 goals per hour at 5v5 with him on the ice, also worst among Penguins blue liners.
He hasn’t scored and has just three assists.
Here’s how the team performs when he’s on the ice at 5v5:
Out of 64 East division blue liners to play at least 50 minutes at 5v5, Marino ranks 55th in expected goals plus/minus per hour. Not so great defensemen such as P.K. Subban, Rasmus Ristolainen, Robert Hagg and Matt Tennyson all rank ahead of him.
With as much drama that has surrounded the Penguins this season, Marino’s poor performance has largely flown under the radar, at least until last night, when he was directly responsible for two Flyers goals as they blew a 3-0 lead.
His first major gaffe of the night was chasing Cluade Giroux below the goal line on his partner’s side of the ice. As Giroux worked the puck up the boards, he got lost behind the net and ended up on the backdoor as Marino stood in no-mans land while two white and orange jerseys stood uncontested in front of the net.
Marino’s next screw up ultimately cost the Penguins the game. As the Flyers worked the puck out of the corner, Marino inexplicably skated to the middle of the left circle to apply pressure. In doing so, he left Matheson alone to defend two Flyers.
Marino even had a chance to get back and tie up the eventual goal-scorer, but instead he was fixated on the puck and let Giroux slip into the goal-mouth for an easy tap-in to take the lead.
These clips showcase what’s gone wrong for Marino all season; over-aggressiveness and lack of awareness.
With Matheson as his most common d-partner, those are two things that won’t bode well for the Penguins.
Part of me wonders if Marino is overcompensating for Matheson who is constantly all over the ice. Could a reunion with Marcus Pettersson do the trick?
They don’t have another right handed defenseman to play on the second-pairing. Yeah, they could put Cody Ceci there, but he’s finally putting a solid season together which just so happens to be the first season of his career in which he hasn’t been asked to play first or second-pairing minutes.
Chad Ruhwedel has been pretty good in the action he’s seen this year, but he simply isn’t a second-pairing guy.
The Penguins are either going to have to accept that Marino isn’t as good as he showed last season, or that any positives Matheson provides on the offensive side are diminished by the way he effects his partner and defensive game.
It’s starting to feel like the Penguins have way too many lingering issues to make a legitimate run this season. If they have any hopes of doing so, it starts with Marino turning it around in a big way.
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All data via Evolving Hockey, TopDownHockey
Visualization from JFreshHockey