Kris Letang sure is making an early case to be a Norris Trophy candidate come June. He was on another level Thursday night in the Penguins' 6-2 win over the Islanders.
Letang, after scoring just once in the previous 19 games, snapped his scoring drought with two goals in the first period in the win:
Letang was credited with 10 shot attempts (including blocked and missed shots), the highest on the team. With six shots tonight, he leads the Penguins in shots on goal with 87 in 26 games, or just over 3.3 per game. Those totals are a result of a shoot-first mentality Letang has now.
"(It's) probably a different mindset going into it," Letang said of his play this season after the win. "Sometimes I have the chance to play with Sid, Geno, those kind of guys, I tried to get them the puck as much as I could before. Now this year I'm trying more shooting the puck and trying to create offense that way."
And yet, it was still Letang's defensive play that stood out in this game.
In this sequence while killing Marcus Pettersson's holding penalty in the second period, Letang chases Mathew Barzal behind the net. Brian Dumoulin moves forward to trap Barzal and add pressure. The pair forces a turnover, and Letang clears the puck out of the zone:
In viewing a slowed-down version of the overhead cam, we can see the stickwork between Letang and Dumoulin to force the turnover:
Letang recorded season-high five hits -- three at even strength, one on a penalty-kill, and this hit on Casey Cizikas on a power play:
When Letang is in a groove like that, he does things like ... this:
After the puck popped into the air, Letang was able to keep the puck in the zone with a one-handed swing of his stick in midair. It happened so fast that the television broadcast barely picked it up, but the fans in the building took notice, judging by the "oooooh"s that followed. I asked him about that moment after the game, and he attributed the play to luck:
Sure, some luck was involved. But that's skill.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
[caption id="attachment_733173" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Islanders, PPG Paints Arena, Dec. 6, 2018 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]