TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Busy Letang works with variety of blue liners

Penguins/NHL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Thursday, June 6, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
 

BOSTON — Teams that boast the finest “top four” defensemen usually enjoy considerable success in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Judging by the minutes allocated, it appears the Penguins believe they possess only three defensemen worthy of “top four” time.

Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin are undeniably the men coach Dan Bylsma most trusts on the blue line. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final, which lasted nearly 100 minutes, featured this time distribution for the Penguins' blue line:

• Letang, 40:50

• Orpik, 38:10

• Martin, 36:51

• Deryk Engelland, 26:18

• Matt Niskanen, 20:19

• Douglas Murray, 17:08

This was, to some extent, the Penguins' plan from the beginning of the playoffs.

Assistant coach Todd Reirden explained during the second round that Letang, Orpik and Martin would receive the bulk of the minutes and that the staff wants one of those three on the ice as frequently as possible.

Are the huge minutes too much for the top three to handle?

Bylsma doesn't seem to be concerned.

“There were a lot of minutes in that game (Wednesday night),” he said. “When you're talking about that many minutes, there will be defensemen who play a lot.”

No one played more than Letang, and no one has been playing with a wider variety of defensemen than Letang.

For most of the final half of the regular season, Letang played with steady defenseman Mark Eaton. However, Eaton has struggled at times this postseason and has been a recent healthy scratch.

Letang has spent much of his time in this series with Niskanen. Letang also has played a couple of playoff games with rookie Simon Despres.

He even saw time in Game 3 with Murray.

Historically, Letang has played most of his games with Orpik, and he also has been paired with Martin.

Would he be better off having a steady partner?

“In the course of a regular-season game, Kris plays with a lot of different guys,” Bylsma said. “Kris plays the most minutes on our team, so you'll see him with different partners.”

Letang's 16 playoff points rank second on the Penguins. However, he also has committed an uncharacteristic number of blunders.

From the steady Eaton to the offensively blessed Despres — not to mention two-way players such as Niskanen and Martin — Letang frequently finds himself on the ice with players of different styles.

Bylsma insists it isn't bothering him.

“I don't think there's an issue with continuity,” he said.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  2. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  3. Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins