Blackhawks 2019-20 season in review: Olli Maatta


The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Olli Maatta.

Olli Maatta's first season in Chicago has been a challenging one. The Blackhawks brought him in to be more of a defensive specialist to help limit the high-quality scoring chances after they ranked 31st in that category during the 2018-19 campaign and liked the fact he was a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Pittsburgh.

It took him a while to get comfortable playing in a new system and, for the first time in his NHL career, new team, but after several key injuries on the back end, head coach Jeremy Colliton turned to Maatta and Slater Koekkoek as the third pairing and it became one of their most consistent tandems.

When Koekkoek and Maatta were on the ice together at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks controlled 53 percent of the shot attempts, 53.1 percent of the scoring chances and 53.9 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. And this is despite the fact they started only 43 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone.

This isn’t to suggest Koekkoek and Maatta have become possession drivers, it’s more-so to point out they impacted the game in a positive manner when paired together.

"They both understand what they have to do to be effective and they're complementing each other," Colliton said in January. "There's a lot of communication. They both play physical and [have] good sticks. They both understand it's really important to defend. Defend first and be as clean as possible with the puck because then you don't have to defend as much.

"As a pair in all areas of the ice I feel like they're defending entries really well, they're getting stops in D-zone, helping us break out and I think their offense at the blue line has been quite good too, getting pucks to the net and that's been good."  

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