Kovacevic: Cole vs. Brassard, Pirates’ free pass, replacing Le’Veon


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Olli Maatta lines up in front of a shot by the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

It's possible that the Penguins have weakened their defense by trading Ian Cole.

I mean, there's no way to rule it out, right?

Certainly we can't know before the rigorous test of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He was a two-time champion here, a heart-and-soul figure on and off the ice, and he was probably a better all-around hockey player than most might have realized over his tenure. So much more than a stay-at-home shot-blocker.

Oh, and there's this: Since the Feb. 23 trade, the Cole-less Penguins have given up an average of 3.53 goals, third-most in the NHL, and 31.5 shots, 13th-most in the league and -- wow to this next one -- have killed penalties at a pathetic 68.9 percent rate, including another power-play goal allowed Sunday in the 5-4 overtime victory over the Flyers at PPG Paints Arena.

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