The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to get back on track, and it is no coincidence that things started to turn around when Tristan Jarry, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang started to play better.
Overall, the Penguins have won 10 of their past 14 games and have put themselves in a good position for a potentially strong second half of the season. Not only is the team having more success overall, it is going hand in hand with the improved play of some of its most important players.
Throughout the first month of the season the struggles of Jarry, Malkin, and Letang were three of the most glaring issues facing the team. They were clearly off their game and not playing anywhere close to the level that is expected of them. The hope was that it would only be a matter of time until things turned around. We seem to be at that point as Malkin continues to build a chemistry with Kasperi Kapanen and Tristan Jarry starts to resemble the form that made him such a promising goalie a year ago.
For now though let’s focus a little on Letang and the return of his long-time defense partner, Brian Dumoulin. Because they are starting to become really important.
Along with being one of the team’s best players, Letang has always been one of the driving forces behind the Penguins’ success. When he plays well, the team tends to play well. When he struggles or is out of the lineup, the team tends to struggle. For all of the criticism he tends to get at times from a decent sized portion of the fanbase, he remains a key cog and a bonafide No. 1 NHL defenseman. When he is at this best there are only a handful of players in the league that can impact a game the way he can for as many minutes as he can. We are slowly but surely starting to see that version of Letang again.