Letang Playing His Best Hockey
Seven points in his last two playoff games while being strong defensively in all situations, including the penalty kill?
That’s Kris Letang.
The Penguins defenseman and Norris Trophy finalist recorded a postseason single-game career-high four assists in Pittsburgh’s Game 4 victory over Ottawa, a 7-3 dismantling of the Senators on Wednesday.
Letang followed that by scoring a goal, two assists and finishing with a plus-3 rating in a 6-2 win over Ottawa in Game 5 on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center, helping the Penguins clinch their second-round series against the Senators.
Letang’s numbers are staggering. He has 16 points in 11 games, tied for second overall with teammate Evgeni Malkin behind only Boston’s David Krejci (17 points). Letang’s three points this evening also pushed his points per game average to 1.45 – tops among Pittsburgh defensemen all-time in a single playoff season (mininum 10 games).
But Letang is not looking at his production as an assessment of his play.
“You can’t really look at that that way,” he said when asked how he felt about his play and told of his position in the scoring race. “We have to just see how I play defensively and making sure I keep the puck away from my own end. Obviously when you do that, you get rewarded with some points.”
Well, Letang’s play defensively over his last five periods was outstanding. He was paired with Mark Eaton in a secondary matchup role against Ottawa’s speed players and was strong there. Letang is also currently averaging 2:29 shorthanded minutes per game on a penalty kill that is clicking at nearly 90 percent, and he has a plus-7 rating – tied for second among NHL defensemen.
Letang has also been instrumental working the point on Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play, which has converted over 28 percent of its chances – 13 of 46, to be exact. Nine of his points have come with the man-advantage.
He has been excellent all over the ice (a surface it seems like he never leaves, as he is averaging 27 minutes per game), and has stood out so much and been so valuable on a star-studded roster that contains so much talent – which says a lot about the type of player he is.
Letang’s performance in Game 5 is one that makes one marvel about just how skilled he is and what the smooth-skating defenseman can do when he is playing the right way and making the correct decisions with and without the puck – like when to join the rush, when to stay back, when to shoot and when to pass. When he plays like that, he's playing his best hockey.