Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Kris Letang carries the puck against the Bruins
Already an All-Star defenseman and widely considered to be a Norris Trophy candidate, Kris Letang entered the Eastern Conference Finals among the playoff leaders in points.
You never would have guessed that judging by his play in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Letang has yet to register a single point in this series and has a plus/minus rating of minus-five thus far. To make matters worse, he has struggled defensively and has been guilty of several unforced turnovers.
Unfortunately, the Pens do not have a defensive partner that can give Letang the confidence to use his skating and playmaking ability the way he should and cover for him when he makes a mistake. As a result, he at times seems caught between attacking and defending—make the safe play or make the great play.
Thus far in this series, Letang has been paired with each of the other five defensemen at various times, yet continues to struggle. To begin Game 3, he was paired with Matt Niskanen who, like Letang, struggles at times in his own zone against bigger forwards.
When Bruins forward David Krejci took the puck behind the net, Letang decided to defend the crease and leave his partner to pursue the puck. Unfortunately, Niskanen had made the same decision. The result was a bad bounce goal by Krejci who was able to skate out from behind the net unchallenged.
With one year left on his contract and reportedly seeking a long-term deal worth around $7 million per season, Kris Letang seemed destined for a big payday. Based on how he has played thus far against the Bruins, Pens general manager Ray Shero should offer Letang a long-term deal right now, because his value will probably never be lower.
Unless the Penguins are able to find a capable blue line partner for Kris Letang, either from the current roster, through free agency or trade, the talk of him winning a Norris Trophy will be just that; talk.