We all know that Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel are among the reasons the Pens are off to such a great start this season. But as we saw last year during the playoffs, Kris Letang is one of the main driving forces on this team. One could refer to him as the straw that stirs the drink. His recent injury will be difficult to overcome in the coming weeks.
He head man’s the power play, he is a physical offensive minded defenseman that changes games with his speed and skill. Although that is the injury that has knocked him out of the lineup, a case could be made that his struggles started before the injury and is one of the main reasons this team has struggled recently.
The Penguins power play was struggling mightily on the road and one of the reasons was his inconsistent play. He has not had that jump in his game we saw during stretches early in the season or late last season during their run. Could it be all the minutes? I think it could be. Letang is not a large guy and for the amount of minutes he plays every night, couple that with his physical style of play, it can make for a very long season. The injury, albeit bad timing for the Pens, could be perfect timing for him to get well and rested for the stretch run.
In recent games, Letang has been replaced on the top power play with Shultz from time to time trying to jump-start that unit. Also, he has been turning the puck over and or not getting to loose pucks as he was early in the season. There is no shame in it, but it seems like he had hit a wall recently.
While Letang rests and heals, the Pens will call up a couple of players and play the match game trying to put a lineup out there that can change the recent tune of this team.
The Pens have hit a bit of a wall although as a whole they have played well this season. But their great play is less evident because of the Columbus streak and now Washington on a roll. Pittsburgh has struggled mightily on the road throughout the season as they are 1 game under .500. At home on the other hand, they are 18-2-2 which is tops in the league.
Something else that has changed is the Pens goalie situation. Both Fleury and Murray have been good but not great and with lackluster defense in front of them, they have been tested often. Giving up 3 goals right now is more than the Pens are producing offensively. Which leads me to the offensive struggles.
The Penguins are struggling as Crosby has now gone 5 games without a goal and is not getting the opportunities he was prior. The Pens are not getting production really consistently from anyone or any line. They are not burying their best opportunities.
That brings me full circle back to Letang and The offensive piece I think can be linked his recent play. When he is being disruptive and or creating from the defensive side of the ice, the Pens are at their best. When he is not doing that, they are a bit more predictable and pedestrian. Unfortunately, right now that is what we are seeing.