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

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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.

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.

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