Pain & frustration incoming in 3…2…1…
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 5, 2017
The Penguins are going to be without their most important player for the duration of the playoffs.
I wish I could tell you that everything is going to be alright.
If Crosby or Malkin go out, it hurts the Penguins but the drop off is from one of the best players in the world to one of the best players in the world.
When Letang goes out, it goes from one of the best defenseman in the league, to a top four defenseman. Without the emergence of Justin Schultz, I would tell you the Penguins Cup chances are dead.
Schultz is the only reason this Cup run is still possible. However, the odds of the Penguins repeating without Kris Letang are exponentially less than their odds with him.
No other player can facilitate a breakout like Letang.
No other player can create offensive chances like Letang.
No other player can eat the minutes of Kris Letang.
No other player can replace Kris Letang.
The Penguins are not going to be able to replace him by committee either. The Penguins blue line for this playoffs is going to be crippled, and to put it any other way is just plain wrong.
However, it would be foolish to count the Penguins out. This is as special of a hockey team as I’ve seen in my lifetime. They’re close in the locker room, they believe in each other, and they are incredibly skilled and disciplined. They also have one of the very best coaches in the league. Mike Sullivan will outsmart just about any opposing bench boss, and he will have this team prepared to play each and every game.
No other team can come close to matching the Penguins offensive talents. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel. Those three can win you a series by themselves.
It’s doubtful that any team is going to be able to slow down the line of Guentzel, Crosby, and Sheary. They’re going to own the puck every shift they take, no matter who is defending them.
The rest of the Penguins lineup is littered with talented forwards who can score big goals in clutch situations. Bonino, Hagelin, Rust, Cullen, the list goes on.
The Penguins also have two Stanley Cup winning goaltenders at their disposable. Matt Murray has proved that he only plays better as the stakes get higher, and he refuses to be rattled by the biggest of stages. I am absolutely confident that Matt Murray will keep the Penguins in any series they play this spring.
All in all, what I’m trying to get across is that this is a giant blow the the Penguins Cup chances, but you shouldn’t count them out. Without Kris Letang, the Penguins are still probably one of the very best teams in these playoffs.
This is going to be tough, but I believe in this team and so should you.