If you blame Kris Letang for the Penguins' 6-4 loss at Florida Tuesday, YOU DON'T KNOW HOCKEY.
Finger-pointers cite Letang chasing a puck into an offensive corner near the end of a power play as the turning point in the defeat. Florida's penalty expired, Letang got caught up ice, and Tomas Fleischmann exited the box to score on the counterattack.
Let's examine the basics first:
*Over 16 minutes remained when Fleischmann tallied to give the Panthers a 5-4 edge. Still plenty of time for the Penguins to equalize.
*Had Tomas Vokoun played even half-decent goal before being yanked after allowing four scores, the Penguins would have led (perhaps handily) by then. Same goes for taking penalties and killing penalties: Florida was 4/8 on the power play.
But, more important:
THAT'S HOW LETANG PLAYS.
If you say that play was costly, you're right. If you don't want Letang to do it, you're wrong. Letang's speed and instinct are what make him great.
Perhaps Letang's instinct failed him there, and it cost the Penguins. Score and situation should be considered.
But anyone who wants to put a leash on Letang doesn't understand his value. You don't tell Letang NO. You tell him GO. Once you start putting conditions on GO, you might as well be saying NO.
Letang isn't going to gamble like that in Game 7 of a playoff series.
But in Feburary against Florida, he'll take that chance. Usually, it pays off.