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Red Wings Defenseman Maatta Re-Invents Himself As NHLer

Maatta went from point producer to stay at home D as an NHLer



Olli Maatta
Olli Maatta scored an empty-net goal in the Red Wings' opener against Montreal.

In the NHL, there are occasionally generational players, but the description of Olli Maatta would be that he is a transformational player.

These days, the Detroit Red Wings defenseman is known for his stops. Early in his career, the view of Maatta was that he was a defender who could be starting something.

When he was a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2012 NHL entry draft (22nd overall), Olli Maatta was thought of as someone who could run a power play. And early on, he did that. The 2013-14 NHL season saw Maatta potting nine goals and producing 29 points. He scored six goals in 2015-16 and seven in 2017-18.

In his Red Wings debut on Friday against the Montreal Canadiens, Maatta also scored. An empty-net tally, mind you, but a goal nonetheless.

It was Maatta’s first goal in 50 games and just his second marker of his past 112 games.

Making plays with the puck is no longer Maatta’s mantra. These days, stopping the other team from making plays is how Olli rolls.

Maatta Transforming His Game

The player Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde sees on the ice for his team now, isn’t the same guy who first came up with the Penguins. And that’s not a bad thing.

“I think he’s kind of transformed himself in his career,” Lalonde explained. “Being that first round pick in junior, you come out getting maybe some opportunity on the power play, which I think now he’s kind of defined his game in taking some pride in defending, being good at it.

“Obviously our team defense is something we need to improve on. He’s already transformed in his career as something that he wants to take a lot of pride in.”

Finding A Role And Fitting Into It

It’s also notable that Maatta’s last three goals have been scored for three different teams – Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago. That’s the thing about defensive defenders – they’ll always be in demand.

“I just like he looks like a pro,” Lalonde said of Maatta. “He’s simple. I think the addition was exactly that. We want simple minutes from him, predictable minutes from him.

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“I think it’s a good thing if you don’t notice him within games.”

What was noticeable about Maatta in Detroit’s opener was that he wound up logging the most ice time of any Red Wings player. Maatta skated a game-high 22:39.

“I think Bougs (assistant coach Bob Boughner) just trusted him and then (Detroit defensman Ben) Chiarot had some technical issues – any piece of equipment that could have gone south on him in the first period did, and Maatta picked up those minutes, so good game for him,” Lalonde said.

Only seven seconds of Maatta’s ice time came during Detroit power plays.

Maatta Sees Crowning Achievement Possible For Red Wings

Last season, Maatta was part of a young, prospect-filled Los Angeles Kings team that qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s of the belief that the Red Wings could be capable of making a similar step up.

“Adding (Phillip) Danault and (Viktor) Arvidsson, those were really big pieces for us,” Maatta said of the Kings, who visit LCA Monday to face the Red Wings. “We had more depth. I think the depth was the biggest thing. We were a good team before that but we didn’t have those 2-3 lines that we could play.

“Last year, we found that, and it’s hard to play against a team that can roll 3-4 lines and when you’ve got three D pairs that can play. It’s tough to match up against that.

“[In Detroit,] now you’re adding (David) Perron, Chiarot, Copper (Andrew Copp). When you look at it, it definitely feels right.”

If they do make a move into postseason contention, the Red Wings will be needing to cut down their goals against. That’s where the new-look version of Maatta can prove most valuable.

“He’s simple with the puck, he’s helping us win the possession and in the positional game,” Lalonde said. “And he’s been solid.

“He’s another player that’s going to get a more increased role with his opportunity here than probably what he’s seen the last few years. I think it’ll be a good opportunity for him.”