Hall-of-Fame announcer Mike Lange told me Chad Ruhwedel was good. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Bourque told me Ruhwedel was good.
I didn’t listen. Lately, I’ve had to.
Ruhwedel isn’t Eddie Shore, or even Ron Stackhouse. But the Penguins defenseman isn’t a disaster. That’s a welcome change from Matt Hunwick.
Ruhwedel was a scratch for over two months. Since getting back in the lineup March 3, Ruhwedel has played five games. His plus-minus in those games is even. He’s got a goal, an assist, nine blocks and five hits.
Those stats are OK. That’s all Ruhwedel needs to be, is OK.
Ruhwedel is right-handed. That helps. Right-handed defensemen are to hockey what left-handed pitchers are to baseball. It makes you more employable. So does engineering clean breakouts, a Ruhwedel specialty.
Ruhwedel is partnered with Olli Maatta. The shaky guy with the solid guy. That costs Maatta minutes, but benefits the greater good.
Ruhwedel has played well since getting scratched. F Carter Rowney has been decent in the two games he’s played since getting scratched. Ruhwedel and Rowney have meager skills, but adrenaline can up the ante.
The citizens fretted when Ian Cole and his shot-blocking “skills” departed. But shot-blocking isn’t complicated.
Ex-Penguin D Ron Hainsey currently leads Toronto in blocks with 135, and explained it thusly: “If you count standing in the way between you and the goalie as a skill set, I guess that would be accurate.”
Ruhwedel hardly has a reputation as a gritty, tough-minded stalwart. But, as noted, he’s got nine blocks in five games.
Had Ruhwedel played every game this season and compiled blocked shots at that pace, he would lead the Penguins in blocks. You just stand in the way.