Chris Letang had a few things to say on Friday after training at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ best defense broke some news and broke the team’s six-game slide in a one-on-one interview with PHN.
First, the news: Letang missed Monday’s training and Tuesday’s home game against the Boston Bruins due to illness. This was the first thing the public heard about that he wasn’t feeling well, but that wasn’t the extent of it.
“I was getting there slowly,” Letang said of the recovery. “It’s been 10 days.
“It was weird. I caught it in Edmonton and then felt a little better, and then I went down again and felt really bad at the end of the (Western) flight. Until the Seattle game (last Saturday), I didn’t feel good. It was worrying and upsetting me.”
After a Sunday travel day and two days off in Pittsburgh, Letang played Wednesday at Buffalo, and while he wasn’t — and wasn’t — at 100 percent, he said playing that game “was pretty good.”
Letang did not reveal the nature of his illness, which made it appear as if it had not really been identified.
“There were a lot of things,” he said. “I can’t really make a diagnosis for him.”
While Letang did not link his illness to his playing during losses at Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle, in hindsight, there were indications he wasn’t at his best.
Going back to his last six games, he’s had a plus-minus minus 11, and he’s been minus or even both of those games, including minus 3 Wednesday at Buffalo. He earned a assist against the Saber, and it was his first point in six matches. He also struggled occasionally in recent matches with puck management.
It should be noted that Top Line Penguins winger Jake Guenzel missed Friday’s training due to illness, according to coach Mike Sullivan, but it is unclear if this is the same thing as Letang.
The one thing that’s overwhelmingly clear is that the penguins are struggling. Their six-game losing streak (0-5-1) was the longest of Sullivan’s era.
Although Letang never played in one of those games, he feels the growing losses deeply.
“This is my life,” he said. “I’ll take it (with me) away, out of the rink. It’s something I think about constantly.
“But I believe in what we are doing here, and I believe in the team that we have, that we will be successful. I have faith. I believe that things will come back[to be good]and we will be fine.”
The problem, as Letang sees it, includes a loss of confidence. He sees this as something that can turn around quickly.
“It will be just a moment,” he said. “We just have to come together and play a tough game. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be a ‘grinding game’ that we come together. That’s how we build trust.”
“We know we’re not far. If you take a look at playing five against five, chances are…it’s little periods of time or little sequences in the game that we kind of drop and the other team might take over and we stand behind the eight ball.”
If this sounds like a consistency crisis, Litang disagrees.
“It’s not consistency,” he said. “I think it’s more about the fact that you have to be able to manage the ebb and flow of the game. The other teams are good. We have to give them credit. Sometimes they will push, and you have to be able to handle it. If they press hard and they put pressure, you have to You are able to manage it. You have to be ready. And if they score a goal, you need to turn to get things right again.
“Right now, when you don’t have your confidence and things start to happen, you’re kind of in your head, like here again. You’re just waiting to see what happens instead of just going out and saying, ‘Let’s calm down and get back to work.'”
At the age of 35, substitute captain and one of the Penguin’s three starters – along with center backs Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin – playing in an NHL-17 recordThe tenth Season together and have three Stanley Cup episodes, Letang might feel an extra sense of responsibility to help turn things around.
He doesn’t, just because he puts so much faith in the team as a whole.
It’s everyone,” said Letang. “When we’re sitting in the locker room, everyone counts, whether you’re playing 25 or 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Everyone brings something to the table, whether it’s a spark or a hit or a goal or a good play. That’s how you build your confidence” .
And for Letang, maybe he’ll restore his health at the same time.