Pittsburgh Penguins Season Review: Kris Letang Continues Offensive Creation, Struggles Defensively

Photo Credit: Associated Press


 We continue our look forward to the 2021 Pittsburgh Penguins roster by looking at an analytical review of the previous season. Today will feature Kris Letang.

To get any player to play well over a decade for the same team is something special to behold. To say that the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to draft TWO players from the SAME draft and keep them around for the course of their career is even more special.

That’s what they have gotten out of the 2005 draft, as not only did they win the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes, they also landed Kris Letang in the third round. 

Now a veteran of over 800 games, all with the Penguins, Letang is among the best defensemen to ever play in Pittsburgh, and is among the best blue liners in the league.

A minutes eating machine, Letang logged over 25 minutes per game last season, 3:31 on the power play, and another 2:21 while shorthanded.

Letang also registered a very respectable 44 points in just 61 games, which would have been good for a 59-point pace over a full season.

Letang: 2019-2020 By The Numbers

Long known around the league as one of the league’s top offensive defenseman, Letang didn’t disappoint last season, finishing far better than average in most individual metrics, even to the point of being elite.

Metric

Number

Percentile Rank

Goals per 60

0.31

83.2%

Primary Assists per 60

0.37

69.8%

Points per 60

1.20

89.7%

Shots per 60

6.68

94.0%

Shooting %

4.69%

62.5%

Expected Goals per 60

0.27

90.5%

Giveaways per 60

2.92

13.8%

Takeaways per 60

1.25

72.4%

Letang’s expected goal rate was in the 90th percentile, thanks in large part to his shooting volume and better than average shooting percentage. 

He wasn’t just a goal scorer from the blue line, but every bit the playmaker he has always been. The only concern with Letang, as it has been in the past, has been the turnovers, and the play in his own end.

Letang turned the puck over almost three times per 60 minutes played, one of the worst marks in the league last season.


Metric

Number

Percentile Rank

Corsi For %

52.05%

74.6%

Goals For per 60

3.09

89.7%

Goals Against per 60

2.99

13.4%

Goals For %

50.82%

54.7%

Expected Goals For per 60

2.52

84.9%

Expected Goals Against per 60

2.33

44.8%

Expected Goals For %

51.91%

67.2%

High Danger Chances For %

50.98%

62.1%

High Danger Goals For %

51.04%

57.8%

On Ice Sh %

9.12%

75.9%

On Ice SV %

90.41%

15.5%

It wasn’t always a pretty site defensively when Letang was on the ice. Teams scored on the Penguins almost three times per 60 minutes when Letang was playing, which almost effectively canceled out the amazing offensive output they put up on the other end of the ice.

Despite posting sub-average and down right awful defensive metrics while on ice, his amazing ability to create for others allowed all his goal and scoring chance shares to play out in his favor.

He was just as effective on the power play as ever, finishing with six goals on the man advantage which was good enough to tie him with Alex Pietrangelo for second in the league among defensemen, trailing only Ivan Provorov.

Season Outlook

Nothing changes for Letang heading into this season, he will still be relied on to play heavy minutes this season in what will be his 15th year of his career.

Letang will enter this season in the second to last year of his contract, putting him in line to be an unrestricted free agent the same offseason that Evgeni Malkin is.

While its hard to imagine either going anywhere, thanks to the pandemic and its potential lasting effects, if the salary cap doesn’t go up, it may make things more interesting getting both signed to deals.

But going into the 2021 season, the Penguins are going to need Letang and Brian Dumoulin to stay healthy, a feat that hasn’t been an easy accomplishment over the course of their careers.

As long as Marcus Pettersson and John Marino continue to improve, that could allow the Penguins to take some of the pressure off of Letang, especially at even strength. But once the team goes on the man advantage, expect to see you usual heavy dose of Letang.

Follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy.











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