ShareThis Page
Penguins

Penguins counting on Kris Letang, Matt Murray to rebound

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, 7:09 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

Camp countdown: With two days left before the Penguins open training camp Friday morning in Cranberry, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie highlights two key players looking to improve on last season’s results.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins saw their three-peat bid ended by the Washington Capitals last season, no one had a better view of all the gory details than Matt Murray and Kris Letang.

Such is life for a starting goaltender and a No. 1 defenseman on a team that suffers a second-round playoff exit, but it’s a bitter pill all the same.

Letang all too often found himself chasing odd-man rush attempts by Washington’s talented forwards.

Murray’s save percentage in the series was .905, well below the lofty standards he set in his previous two postseason runs.

Letang took those bad memories and pushed them into the recesses of history as fast as he could. Murray used them to fuel his offseason program.

Either way, with the start of training camp two days away, here’s a look at Letang and Murray, the two players the Penguins need a bounce-back performance from more than any others in order to contend for a championship.

1. A lift for Letang

Letang is neither a doctor nor a mathematician, so this number is unofficial, but ask the 31-year-old how much better he feels approaching training camp now that he’s 17 months removed from major neck surgery and he doesn’t hesitate.

“Like a million times better,” Letang said after the Penguins held an informal workout Tuesday morning in Cranberry. “It’s not even close.”

Letang said there’s no need for him to reflect on his struggles from last year now that a new season is only days away. A well-known fitness fanatic, Letang feels a hard summer in the gym will help him rebound more than any quiet contemplation about past failings ever could.

“Mentally, you’re more sharp, so you can keep a high pace all game and be able to process everything the same way,” Letang said. “If you don’t train, yes you can have a good shift, but when the fatigue starts creeping on you, you start making bad decisions.”

Thanks in part to the addition of free agent defenseman Jack Johnson, there’s been some speculation the Penguins might seek to limit Letang’s minutes in an effort to maximize his effectiveness.

Letang has an interesting take on that. He feels that his ice time is, in a way, something he can very directly control.

“I don’t have an opinion on that. I’m just telling you that if I play well, I play well and they put me on the ice. If I don’t, obviously you don’t want that guy on the ice,” Letang said. “That’s just how it’s going to go, I guess.”

2. Murray’s motivation

When Murray traveled back to Thunder Bay at the end of last season, he headed home for the summer without a Stanley Cup championship for the first time in his NHL career.

The experience didn’t change Murray’s goals.

“You never really want to get any worse in the summer,” Murray said. “You want to get better at everything all the time.”

It may, however, have changed the fire with which Murray pursued his annual quest for self-improvement.

He watched two other teams competing for hockey’s most cherished trophy, and frankly, he didn’t like it.

“You’ve got to use those emotions in a positive way,” Murray said. “If you’re able to harness that and use it in a proper way, I think it can be beneficial for you.”

Speaking philosophically, Murray said he wants to become a better leader in the locker room. Speaking pragmatically, he said he hopes extensive summer video sessions will help him shore up the finer points of his game.

“Having a little bit of extra time gave me a good opportunity to step back and really look at my game objectively,” Murray said, “and realize when it’s not where it needs to be.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me