Senin, 13 Februari 2012

Norris Trophy as top defenseman soon will come Letang's way

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
February 13, 3012

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 11: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores past Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets during the game at Consol Energy Center on February 11, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning played at Consol Energy Center April 27 and beat the Penguins, 1-0, in Game 7 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. I remember walking out of the grand building thinking Penguins defenseman Kris Letang played a lousy game to complete a lousy series in a lousy second half of the NHL season.

The Lightning was back in town Sunday night for the first time since that frustrating game and took a 4-2 beating from the Penguins. I walked into the cold, snow and ice thinking that, if Letang keeps playing this well, the Penguins are going to have a much deeper playoff run this spring.

I mean, really.

How good has Letang become?

I know he was a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate midway through last season when he had six goals and 30 assists after 41 games. But his game suffered badly after Sidney Crosby went out for the season in early January with concussion-like symptoms and then when Evgeni Malkin was lost for the season in early February with a knee injury. He had just two goals in the final 41 games, none in the final 25. He didn't score a goal in the series against the Lightning.

But this February, Letang's game is soaring in the other direction. He had a goal and two assists Sunday night to complete a three-goal, three-assist weekend. In his 11 games since he returned to the lineup after missing 21 games with a concussion, he has five goals and five assists. Not coincidentally, the Penguins went 8-2-1.

Here's one final stat for you:

Letang's eight goals in 33 games match his season total in 82 games last season.

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