Blue Line Special
The most improved player in the league is Kris Letang, who has filled two big voids for the Penguins
After his Penguins teammates cleared the ice following last Friday's practice, the NHL's most improved player remained, rejecting a pass he received on the tape of his stick. "No good," Kris Letang told Todd Reirden, the assistant coach who oversees Pittsburgh's defense. "Too perfect." Reirden made sure the next hundred or so passes were bouncing, rolling, at Letang's skates or too far behind him. "Kris never stops working or learning," Reirden says. An hour later Letang, 23, gazed at a video screen, watching each of his shifts from the previous game and also separate clips of Nicklas Lidstrom to see how the Red Wings' star backliner handled an oncoming forecheck. "He's a great example," Letang says. "Eyes everywhere."
For the Penguins, Letang's ascent has been perfectly timed. Since Pittsburgh let four-time All-Star Sergei Gonchar escape via free agency last summer, Letang has thrived as the anchor of the club's top defensive pair (along with Brooks Orpik) and the quarterback of the power play. His stepped-up performance has been crucial in the absence of Sidney Crosby, who has been out since Jan. 5 with a concussion. The Pens lost their first three games without their captain but won their next two, in which Letang had three points. The league's fans have rewarded him by giving him the most All-Star votes of any NHL defenseman.
"He's a guy I tell my kid to watch all the time," says Hall of Fame blueliner Paul Coffey. "He's strong, smart, tough. He can shoot the puck. He doesn't look big, but he's strong on his feet and he's very heads-up." Through Saturday, Letang led all NHL defensemen with 33 assists, his +21 rating is third best in the league and he is, along with Orpik, one of the reasons the Penguins lead the NHL in penalty killing, at 87.6%.
Says Reirden, "Last year, he'd settle the puck, blast away, miss the net, get shots blocked. Now he moves his feet to find a lane before the puck arrives and one-times it more accurately."
Another reason for Letang's improved play is that the congenital migraines he suffered as a teen have subsided. "When I had them," he recalls, "I couldn't see the puck or guys coming to hit me." He experienced only mild discomfort during the off-season, but a throbbing pain often flared up throughout the winter. Letang would take injections that made him nauseated. If he threw up, he had to scramble to try to rehydrate before skating. Amazingly, he's never missed an NHL game with a migraine. "I was dying to play, so I didn't complain about headaches," he says.
Letang began taking a new medication last year but still had one bad episode before opening night when he ran out of pills. Afraid to drive home, he slept at the rink after the morning skate. "I need the room completely dark," he says. "Otherwise when I wake up, it's like someone is pressing on my eyeball and I see blurry colors that move around." He still undergoes brain scans twice a year.
These days, with his condition controlled and his game on the rise, Letang is the one giving headaches to the rest of the league.
- More Randon All Star Kris (2011)
- Letang back at Practice in Pittsburgh today 1-31-...
- Letang post game ASG 2011 interview (sorry if I al...
- Letang's first ASG goal
- Letang's second ASG goal
- Letang Postgame ASG interview 1/30/11
- A good friend made me this icon/avatar of Letang
- All Stars Fleury and Letang
- More All Star Letang
- Letang Scores Two Goals in All-Star Game Debut
- Video of Letang scoring at the 2011 ASG
- Penguins' Letang scores twice in NHL All-Star debu...
- Letang scores two goals in the 2011 All Star game
- Letang All Star Pic Spam January 2011
- Oh My God
- 2011 ASG Super Skills pic spam
- Penguins Notebook: Skills competition fun for Fleu...
- 01/29/2011 - Kris Letang Versus Interview
- 01/29/2011 - Kris Letang - Post Superskills French...
- Kris Letang - 2011 NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft...
- ASG; Post-Skills: Kris Letang
- ASG; Post-Skills: Kris Letang 1/29/11
- Kris on the Super Skills Competition
- Letang Super Skills 2011 All Star Weekend
- Letang signing autographs on the red carpet before...
- Super Skills Letang Events
- All Star Interviews Red Carpet in French
- January 28 2011 Kris Letang Pre All Star Draft Int...
- Letang at the 2011 NHL All Star Draft pics
- Kris Letang
- Kris Letang 2011 All Star Red Carpet Interview aft...
- Poor Guy
- All Star pics from the previous post/article from ...
- Kris Letang at the All Star game in Raleigh, NC O...
- Penguins' Fleury, Letang chosen for different All-...
- 2011 All Star team rosters
- 2011 All Star Letang
- Mock Draft Picks for the 2011 NHL All Star game
- Another link about the Mock Draft picks for 2011 A...
- All Star Mock Draft 2011
- A few random pics of Letang
- All Star Letang and Fleury Pic Spam
- Fleury and Letang Eager for All-Star Game
- All Star poster of Letang in a restaurant in Ralei...
- Cool Letang All Star shirt
- January 2011 - IPH - Kris Letang - 2011 All-Star G...
- Penguins vs Islanders 1-25-11
- Post-Game: Kris Letang (1/25/11)
- Ice Time Magazine Cover 1-25-11
- Game-Day: Kris Letang (1/25/11)
- Penguins vs Devils 1/20/11
- I never knew who this was so Thank Goodness this p...
- Penguins versus Hurricanes 1-23-11
- Kris Letang quote about 2011 All Star Captains
- Sport Illustrated Article about Letang (January 2...
- Penguins vs Devils
- Thumbs Up for Letang
- Kris Letang radio interview FM 105.9 Pittsburgh, ...
- Penguins vs Devils 1-20-11
- Penguins vs Devils 1-20-11
- Letang at Pens Morning Practice 1/20/11
- Just Because its Tanger
- 58,000 Views!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Off-Day: Kris Letang (1/19/11)
- New Article about Letang
- Penguins vs Red Wings 1-18-11
- Post-Game: Kris Letang (1/18/11)
- Letang at the Pens Bowling Charity Event January 2...
- Pens and Pins (1/17/11)
- Game-Day: Kris Letang (1/18/11)
- Article about Letang
- Letang interview pics on the Pens site
- Super Cuteness 87 and 58
- Awwwwwwwwww 87 and 58
- I found this on google image search and it was on ...
- Random Letang
- Picture from today's Pens/Bruins game
- Just a couple pics of Letang at the WC 1-1-11
- Celebrating Pens 1-12-11
- Another French interview Fleury and Letang
- Habs vs Pens 1-12-11
- Post-Game: Kris Letang (1/12/11)
- 3 Assists for Letang in tonights game against the ...
- Random Kris pic from the Pens/Bruins game 1/10/11
- French Interview with Kris Letang 1/12/11
- Which do you want to see Letang wear??? (Feel Fre...
- Matt Calvert vs Kristopher Letang Sep 25, 2010
- More pictures of the Penguins and of course Kris ...
- A few more from http://25stanley.com/
- Kris Letang pic spam
- Letang All Star votes total
- Letang celebrating his goal against the Bruins 1-1...
- Kris Letang post game interview 1-10-11
- I like this picture of Letang and because he score...
- Pens vs Bruins 1-10-11
- Kris scored his 7th goal of the season!!! Way to ...
- Old pic of Kris Letang and Jordan Staal
- Intense Letang
- Cute pic of Sid and Kris Penguins vs Islanders ...
- Practice pic of Letang and Martin 1-9-11
- ▼ January (128)
- ► 2010 (225)