Kris Letang: 'We Have All of the Skill But It's Not Working'
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Kris Letang: ‘We Have All of the Skill But It’s Not Working’



PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 18: Pittsburgh Penguins Center Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates after his goal with Center Sidney Crosby (87), Center Jake Guentzel (59), and Defenseman Kris Letang (58) in the first period during the First Round Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on April 18, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

It has become a popular refrain. Different players have used different versions over the past week or more, but the sentiment has been the same. The Penguins cannot feel sorry for themselves. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was the latest to use the phrase, but his comments Saturday night belied the growing level of dismay and frustration in the Penguins locker room.

“We have all of the skill in the world, but right now it’s not working,” said Letang. “Maybe just simplify our mindset.”

In the third period, Saturday the Penguins fourth line finally lit the lamp after a few games of offensive pressure without the payoff. First, Zach Aston-Reese took a puck from the wall towards the net. His quasi-shot or pass towards Bryan Rust who crashed the net eluded Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

Later in the period, Matt Cullen finished a Rust rebound. Simplify their mindset, indeed.

“We have to figure it out. We can’t be sorry for ourselves,” said Letang. “We have to be able to show more of what we were able to do in the third period.”

The great problem for the Penguins has been the ability to execute a simple game consistently. Head coach Mike Sullivan has implored them to shoot the puck to put pressure on opponents. The plea has worked but only in spurts. It has worked in fits and starts which give way to more traditional but suddenly less successful Penguins hockey: trying to create pretty plays off the rush.

And opponents have been the beneficiary.

“Maybe just putting the puck at the net and make it a little bit nasty out there,” said Letang.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

As Pittsburgh Hockey Now has written in great detail, the Penguins speed advantage is gone. After trading Carl Hagelin, the Penguins speed game was further reduced.

“I don’t know. It looks like we’re hesitant. Lack of confidence,” Letang continued as he searched for a better explanation. “The only way out of this is to bury our head and execute the right way.”

Unfortunately, Letang is not the first player to express that sentiment, either. The Penguins locker room has been a monochromatic oil painting of right words and wrong deeds. Letang, however, is one of the players playing well and doing his best to carry the team through a bad situation.

And, the situation is getting darker. Perhaps a player like Letang will be able to affect positive or in this case simple change. It isn’t rocket-science to shoot the puck. Such was likely the reason the Penguins acquired Tanner Pearson, Wednesday.

The Penguins will face the Buffalo Sabres, Monday. Typically, when the Penguins and Buffalo meet, there is a last place team involved. However, Buffalo is another young and fast team, the likes of which have given the Penguins fits this season. They are the hapless Buffalo Sabres, no longer. They are 12-6-2 and in third place in the Atlantic Division.

It is the Penguins which now have more losses than wins (7-8-3) and are in last place.

The times are a changing.

READ ALSO PHN Extra: Not Good Enough, Penguins Report Card vs. Ottawa


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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.



  1. Dean Yellets

    November 18, 2018 at 11:21 am

    The real question is, is Sullivan closer to a Tomlin or a Belichick as a coach?

    The answer is Tomlin.

    His assessments of his player’s abilities are tainted by his personal feelings. If he likes you, you get a lot more rope and if he doesn’t like you, well his action speaks louder than words. We have seen this repeated more then once. I will just use Cole and Maatta as the proof point. Cole was a much better fit for the pens then Maatta and Cole would be benched for a fraction of what Maatta gets away with and traded away.

    We are seeing this play out this year with Sprong. When he does get to play. They limit his ice time where it is almost impossible to get into the game. They play him out of position with players that are slow and can’t find the net then they wonder why he can’t score. On top they play him with the bottom d-pair that have been prone to give the puck away.

    We talk about speed and Sullivan plays slow, old, players who are hurting the team. While we have young guys in the system that it is time to give a chance.

    • Big Bern

      November 18, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Great call Dean. I have been harping for two years Sullivan is exactly the same as Bylsma, he inherited a great team in turmoil and just the coaching change turned the players around.They already had a good defensive structure in place and so he just let his horses run.

      In year two problems started to emerge as his system took over and then he also began to turn on the players that helped him win, starting with Flower and then Cole and Pouliot and now Sprong and lets not forget his Problems with Kessel.

      Coaches have a shelf life and maybe his has expired i msay maybe because until Matt Murray stops a damn puck it is impossible to tell what is truly WRONG with the Pens.

  2. RobertU

    November 18, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Playing Sprong in harder minutes against better competition would make him look even worse. It’s like saying someone is a bad cashier, but if we just put them in the express lane on the busiest day of the year, they’d flourish. I hope the kid can turn it around, but right now, he’s in over his head. He’s outplayed by everyone he’s on the ice with, in actual play, like ZAR, Cullen, Wilson, and Simon. I mean, it’s obvious in the stats, as well as the eye test. He’s at the bottom of the team in high danger chances against (Kessel is not far behind, BTW). ZAR, Wilson, Cullen, Ruhwedel, and Simon have the exact opposite result in the stats. In other words, he hasn’t played well and it can’t be explained by being on the bottom line. Sullivan is not playing favorites – he’s playing better players.

    Kessel has problems with every coach b/c he’s defensively lazy and undisciplined as a player. We knew this when we got him. Cole had personality problems with this coach. I didn’t like losing him either, but poop happens. Fleury was a business decision. You can’t keep an old and expensive goalie when you have a young and cheap one who’s outplaying him…unless you want to waste your organization’s money and say goodbye to Malkin or Kessel or Letang. You can’t afford everyone. I like Fleury too and wish him all the luck, but let’s be honest, he cost the Pens a number of playoff runs with mental meltdowns, played a big role in Vegas losing the Cup last season, and is not playing that well this season – his team is in worse position than the Pens right now.

    • Dan Kingerski

      November 19, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Oh man, that’s an image, Robert! The guy is new…his first day is Black Friday! Yi

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