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Why Olli Maatta was Blackhawks’ most valuable defenseman in 2020 NHL postseason

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He led all Chicago blue liners with three goals and six points — all during five-on-five play — in nine postseason games.

Chicago Blackhawks v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Five
Olli Maatta of the Chicago Blackhawks is chased by William Carrier of the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period of Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Blackhawks traded Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Penguins for Olli Maatta in June 2019, it’s doubtful anyone saw him having the postseason impact he did this year. Six points (three goals, three assists) in nine games is great for a defenseman. It’s especially great for a stay at home defenseman who had 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 65 regular season games.

Those three goals and six points were the most on the Blackhawks’ blue line. In fact, the only other defender with a goal was his defensive partner Slater Koekkoek.

Perhaps Maatta’s best goal was this snipe against Edmonton:

His other two were a very clear deflection by Edmonton into their own net and a save Marc-Andre Fleury should have made.

Perhaps his best scoring play was this assist on Drake Caggiula’s goal in Game 4. That would turn out to be a pretty critical goal to extending Chicago’s season:

Maatta also had probably made the best save of the postseason by a Blackhawks player not named Corey Crawford with this play in Game 1 against Edmonton:

Maatta, in addition to scoring the most points on the blue line, formed the best pairing with Koekkoek. Their possession stats were all well above their 30.77 offensive zone start percentage (41.08-percent Corsi, 44-percent shot share, 41.9-percent expected goal share). That means Maatta and Koekkoek were net positives in moving the puck.

They also had a 69.23-percent goal share. They allowed only four goals against in 109:45 of five-on-five time. They were on ice for nine for, and Maatta was a big factor in that scoring — all of his points came at five-on-five.

Choose a stat from this postseason and on the Blackhawks’ roster Maatta is near the top. His 1.09 goals per 60 was fourth on the team. His 1.82 primary points per 60 was fifth. He and Koekkoek allowed the fewest giveaways among defensemen (Koekkoek had 2.03, Maatta 2.19). And Maatta blocked the second-most shots per 60 with 8.02.

Maatta also did something few Blackhawks players did: all of his possession stats at five-on-five were above his offensive zone start percentage. He had a 43.78 CF%, but that was better than his 29.41 ozs% (so a net 14.37 CF%). He had a 16.8 net shot share, 14.8 net expected goal share and 15.03 net high-danger share. The other Blackhawks to accomplish the feat were David Kampf and Koekkoek.

This comes on the heels of Maatta’s regular-season performance when he had the best goals above replacement among Blackhawks defenders with 6.7. That was the third-best mark on the team after Jonathan Toews (11.2) and Dominik Kubalik (10.4). Perhaps it’s not surprising he was the Blackhawks best defenseman in the postseason.

Maatta also played the fourth-most average minutes per game on the blue line this postseason. He averaged 18:17, seventh on the team overall. That was down from 18:25 in the regular season but put him in the top four (Erik Gustafsson averaged more with 20:39).

Besides Adam Boqvist, who turned 20 on Aug. 15, Maatta was the second youngest Blackhawks defenseman at 25 (he turns 26 on Saturday). If the Blackhawks keep him after this offseason and opt to not buy out his contract ($4.083 million per season until 2022), Maatta should have a good amount of tread left on his tires.

Stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Reference and Evolving-Hockey