-Kris Letang had a stroke.
-Think about that for a moment. A stroke. This isn't a sprained shoulder or a dislocated knee. It's not even a concussion or a fractured vertebrae. You can suffer those injuries by playing hockey or any other contact sport. You can suffer a stroke by simply living life.
-Strokes can impact lives in ways far too gruesome to recount in this forum. A stroke isn't usually something you deal with in terms of it being a temporary inconvenience. Usually, it changes your life or in some cases, it can end life.
-Thankfully, Letang's stroke was a relatively minor one (if such a thing can be stated). He suffered it Jan. 29. That's only 70 days ago. Yet, here he is on the verge of playing a high impact sport at the highest professional level.
-Even with the benefit of seeing him practice at a high pace the past few weeks and function as a typical NHLer (aside from playing in actual games), the fact that he will play tonight is nothing short of staggering.
-Based on what head coach Dan Bylsma stated this morning, Letang will be teamed with Rob Scuderi, the player he was expected to be partnered with since this past offseason. Ailments to each player have limited to each player have limited the amount of games they've been able to play together. By Scuderi's account, it has been less than seven. Either way, the Penguins need these two players to find chemistry in the short amount of time remaining in the regular season. This team will not accomplish anything without this duo functioning at a high level as one of the team's top two defensive pairings.
-By all accounts, Letang's minutes will be managed. Don't expect to see him logging upwards of 25 minutes as he is normally accustomed. As stated before, Letang has been working out and practicing at a fairly high clip. But he still hasn't played a real game since January. Don't look for him to be the dynamo he normally is right out of the gate.
In our opinion, Brooks Orpik described Letang's situation the best by saying, "Hopefully people are patient with him. He’s missed a lot of time. I don’t know if he’ll be at the same exact same level that people are used to. Hopefully he is. If he’s not, hopefully people are patient with him. He’s been off from hockey for an awfully long time."
-If the power play units which were worked out this morning are any indication, Letang's minutes will be limited. The varsity unit had Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen. The junior varsity unit had Letang, Olli Maatta, Brandon Sutter, Jussi Jokinen and Lee Stempniak.
-If Letang can find something close to the level he is normally accustomed to, the Penguins' puck possession game will benefit a geat deal. It's no coincidence the team's mediocre 10-9-2 record since the Olympic break has taken place largely without the services of Martin and Kris Letang available. Puck possession is everything in the modern NHL. Puck-moving defensemen are a big part of that. The absences of Letang and Martin have arguably had the biggest impact on this team than any other absence.
-Given Letang's previous ailments - knee and elbow injuries - it's remarkable that he's been able to score 10 goals in only 34 games this season.
-Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is one of the league's better quotes and he offered a refreshing perspective on Letang's return:
"I think the first thing is you have to be real excited for him and his family. As much as we’re all competing against one another, he’s been a competitive, good player in this league and when that happens, you’re just cheering for him that he’s going to get, number one, his family life back and number two, his game back which he loves. It’s great to see him here tonight. I think he should get a warm ovation obviously tonight from the crowd. I know as a competitor against Pittsburgh, we’ll be thrilled to have him back."
-It will be interesting to see how vanilla the Penguins are tonight with regards to strategy. Dan Bylsma acknowledged the potential for meeting the Red Wings in the first round and how that could impact his game plan for tonight. Regardless of what the Penguins do, they will be facing a Red Wings team going full bore. The Red Wings need one point to clinch a playoff berth.
-One of the Red Wings who always goes full bore is forward Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist has broken out this season with 28 goals. He's the classic Red Wing. Skilled. Swedish. And a mid-round draft pick. He was selected with the last pick (No. 121 overall) in the 2008 draft. The Penguins passed him up at 120 and selected Nathan Moon who is playing with the ECHL's Evansville Icemen.
-We're by no means raking Ray Shero over the coals on this. At that stage of the draft, it's a crapshoot. That said, the Red Wings have a great history of plucking gems like this in the later rounds.
-Some sights around the barn. Dahntahn:
-Who wants a Letang Burger?
-The recently departed (to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) Tomas Vokoun:
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are quite a few Red Wings fans on hand. Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Yzerman:
-Mike Modano and Nicklas Lidstrom:
-If you wear a Darren Helm jersey on the road, you're hardcore:
-Submitted without further commentary:
-A few former Penguins/Red Wings. Ken Wregget:
-Jersey of the Night: We'll keep it simple and go with the man of the night:
-The Penguins' starters are Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland, Marcel Goc and Jayson Megna.
-The Red Wings' starters are Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith and Jonas Gustavsson.
-Their scratches are Joakim Andersson, Todd Bertuzzo, Dan Cleary and Jonathan Ericsson.
-After public address announcer Ryan Mill offers well wishes to the victims of today's attack at Franklin Regional High School, anthem singer Jeff Jimerson asks fans to sing along in a show of support:
19:27: After Sutter has a wrister blocked in the Red Wings' right circle, xxx recovers the rebound on the end boards. He's smacked into the end boards by Stempniak.
19:09: A wrister by Martin from the right point is blocked.
18:40: On a brief two-on-one, Drew Miller forces a pass form in tight ton the left wing to David Legwand in the slot. Martin reads it perfectly and pokes it away.
17:49: The Red Wings will get the first power play as Brian Gibbons is called for high sticking Jakub Kindl. Adams, Martin, Sutter and Orpik take the ice.
17:41: Franzen chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Fleury fights it off despite a screen. Sutter is able to clear the puck down ice.
17:10: Kronwall rips a wrister from center point. Fleury kicks it out.
16:43: Kronwall chops a slapper from the high slot. Martin blocks it. Sutter once again chips the puck down ice.
16:05: Tomas Tatar rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury fights it off. Stempniak is able to chip the puck down ice to kill off the rest of Gibbons' minor.
14:34: A wrister by Orpik from the left point is wide on the near side.
14:05: Sutter pushes the puck up the right wing, gets behind Kronwall and attacks the net. He cur across the front of the crease, gets Gustavsson to commit and lifts a backhander off the left post. Argh.
13:03: Maatta chops a slapper from the left point wide of the cage.
12:24: A wrister by Taylor Pyatt is rejected by Gustavsson. That is the Penguins' first official shot on net.
10:31: Crosby races the puck up the left wing and attacks the net. Smith keeps up with him and upends him into the end boards.
10:27: Maatta chucks a wrister on net from the left point. Gustavsson snags it.
9:19: The Penguins get sloppy with the puck and the Red wing cash in. Sutter forces a pass or a clear from his won right wing corner. It gets stolen by Danny DeKeyser at the right point and moved up to Helm on the right half wall. He deals to Alfredsson who rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury fights it off and allows a rebound which bounces off the end boards and back towards the front of the blue paint. Tomas Jurco is all over it and punches the puck behind Fleury. Ick. Sutter needed to make a better play with that puck. And Matt Niskanen was out to lunch on that rebound. Alfredsson and Helm get assists. A healthy showing of Red Wings fans celebrate. Red Wings 1-0.
8:41: A wrister by martin from above the right circle is blocked.
8:15: The hole gets deeper for the Penguins as Jussi Jokinen is called for holding the stick of Helm in front of the Penguins' net. Sutter, Martin, Adams and Orpik take the ice.
6:15: Two minutes later, the Penguins kill off the minor with little threat.
5:41: Taking a pass at the right point, Maatta cranks a slapper. Gustavsson fights it off despite traffic.
1:42: After a few stagnant minutes, Nyquist chucks a wrister from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out.
0:20: On a delayed penalty, Chris Kunitz backhands a shot from the left circle. Gustavsson fights it off. Quincey is called for holding Beau Bennett in the netural zone. The Penguins will get a late power play. Niskanen, Martin, Crosby, Kunitz and James Neal take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Red Wings 1, Penguins 0.
-If the Penguins were trying to show a vanilla approach to this game, mission accomplished. They looked very, very stale that period. The discrepancy in power plays in favor of the Red Wings didn't help their case but they had little going on.
-Puck management was a bit of an issue that period. The Penguins were careless with the puck.
-Letang was okay. He didn't really stand out in a positive or negative fashion. He has 5:17 of ice time on eight shifts. He logged 1:14 on the penalty kill. He has one blocked shot.
-The Red Wings have a 13-4 lead in shots on net.
-The Red Wings have a 20-12 lead in attempted shots.
-Maatta, Alfredsson, Nyquist, Tatar and DeKeyser each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Orpik leads the game with 8:04 of ice time.
-Kronwall leads the game with 7:48.
-The Penguins have a 9-5 lead in faceoffs (64 percent).
-Crosby is 4 for 4 (100 percent).
-Riley Sheahan is 2 for 3 (67 percent).
-Martin leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Kronwall leads the Red Wings with two blocked shots.
-A rather majestic Beau Bennett graces the cover of Icetime:
20:00: The Penguins will start the period with 1:27 of power-play time on fresh ice. Neal, Kunitz, Crosby, Niskanen and Martin take the ice.
19:39: Kunitz grips and rips a wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.
19:05: Martin chops a slapper from the right point which is blocked.
18:58: Crosby tees up a slapper from the left half wall wide on the near side.
18:46: A slapper from center point by Niskanen is blocked.
18:20: The Quincey minor is killed. The Penguins weren't shy about attempting shots but couldn't' really get any on net.
17:36: Off a set faceoff play Glass rips a wrister from the right circle. Gustavsson kicks it out.
15:06: Martin rips a wrister from the high slot wide of the cage.
13:56: A wrister by Crosby from above the right circle sails over the cage.
13:48: Krwonall chucks a wrister from above the left circle wide of the cage.
12:01: Brendan Smith lifts a wrister from the high slot. Fleury punches it away.
11:21: Another power play for the Penguins Cahsing after a dump in into Detroit's right wing corner, Glass is held up by Luke Glendening. That's two minutes for interference. Crosby, Neal, Kunitz,Niskanen and Martin take the ice.
10:57: Jaems Neal to the rescue. Martin pushes the puck up from in front of his own cage. He deals to Crosby at the Penguins' blue line. Crosby races through the neutral zone and gains the offensive zone. Four defenders surround him. He sauces a backhanded pass to Neal in the left circle. Neal settles the puck, dekes to his backhand and tucks the puck by the left skate of Gustavsson who over-committed to the shot. What a simple but effective of puck movement. The "Hey Song" is always effective. Penguins 1, Red Wings 1.
10:33: Smith chucks a shot from the right point. Fleuy fights it off despite traffic and smothers the rebound.
9:08: Letang swipes a one-time from the right half wall wide of the cage.
8:08: Kindl lifts a wrister from the right point. Fleury stands up to stop it. Jurco is there for the rebound but Letang slides down feet first to kick it away.
7:23: Pushing a puck up the right wing, Kunitz rips a wrister on net. Gustavsson eats it up.
5:50: Brian Lashoff chucks a wriste from the left point which Fleury fights off.
5:38: Hard work pays off the the Red Wings. After some strong work down low by the Nyquist, Tatar deals a pass to Kindl at the right point. Kindl tees up a big slapper and releases it. The puck wobbles in on net and beat Fleury on the near side by his glove hand. Fleury protests immediately presumably complaining that Sheahan fell into him on the shot. Officials seem to indicate he was shoved into Fleury by Orpik. A replay confirms that although Sheahan appeared to "punch" fleury with his right hand. That action didn't seem to be impacted by the shove from Orpik. Either way, it's a goal. Tatar and Nyquist get assists. Red Wings 2-1.
4:35: Kronwall has three consecutive shots blocked by Stempniak, Glass and Sutter.
3:40: Attendance is announced as 18,620. It is the team's 325th consecutive sellout.
3:34: Another power play for the Penguins. Legwand is called for high sticking Gibbons. Crosby, Kunitz, Niskanen, Neal and Mart take the ice.
3:18: Neal to the rescue once again. taking a feed from Niskanen in the left circle, Niskaken tees up a pretty simple slapper and cranks it off the hip of a crouching DeKeyer and by the left leg of Gustavsson on the far side. That was some rotten luck for the Red Wings. Niskanen and Martin get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2, Red Wings 2.
3:10: A wrister by Helm is denied by Fleury.
0:00: Martin corrals a puck at the right point and chops a last second slapper which is blocked. End of period. Penguins 2, Red Wings 2.
-Things picked up quite a bit that period. There were a few more chances on each end of the ice.
-The Penguins' power play picked it up. It has accounted for all of the team's offense.
-More of the same for Letang. He seems comfortable. He has 12:56 of ice time on 15 shifts, one missed shot and two blocked shots.
-An area of concern for the Penguins was their inability to control the puck in their own zone for a few stretches. The Red Wings dominated them on a few shifts, including the one which led to the Kindl goal.
-The Red Wings have a 22-10 lead in shots on net.
-The Red Wings have a 39-27 lead in attempted shots.
-Tatar and DeKeyer each lead the game with three shots.
-Maatta, Kunitz and Neal each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Kronwall leads the Red Wings with 16:35 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 16:30.
-The Penguins have a 21-10 lead in faceoffs (68 percent).
-Crosby was 8 for 11 (73 percent).
-Helm is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Kronwall leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Martin and Glass each lead the Penguins with thee blocked shots.
19:18: Off a backhanded feed by Pavel Datsyuk, Mille whacks a one-timer from the slot but fans on the puck.
18:47: A wrister by Neal from the right circle is wide of the cage.
17:32: Sutter tries to chip and chase a puck up the left wing. Smith holds him up a bit and Sutter takes a tumble to the ice. Smith fell on his left leg while Sutter nearly did a split. Sutter limps to the bench in some discomfort. Athletic trainer Chris Stewart attends to him on the bench. That seems like it could have been an interference minor.
15:11: A wrister by Datsyuk from the high slot is blocked.
13:58: Sutter is back on the ice. He never left the bench.
13:27: Kindl chucks a wrister from the center point. Fleury snags it despite traffic.
13:11: Letang chops a puck at the right point which is blocked.
12:07: Craig Adams pushes the puck up the right wing and has a wrister blocked by Kronwall.
11:37: Neal rips a wrister from the right circle juuust wide of the cage.
11:00: Neal is firing at will. Off a feed by KNiskan, he cranks a one-time
10:43: The Monster kames a mistake. Kris Letang races the puck up the right wing on one of his patented rushes up ice. He gets a step on Glendening on the wing an lifts a wrister on net. Gustavsson makes the initial save but the puck plops loose behind him in the blue pain. Jokinen swarm around the crease and pokes it in to the open cage. What a display of skating by Letang. He made this little move in the defensive zone to create a little space against Legwand in the Penguins' slot and took off. Wow. Letang and Niskanen get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-2.
9:43: Alfredsson chucks a wrister from the right circle. Fleury snags it.
8:20: Adam Payerl rips a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing. Gustavsson smothes it.
7:52: Kindl chucks a wriste from center point wide of the cage.
7:46: Big save. Glendening chops a loose puck in the left circle. Fleury fights it off.
6:53: A wrister by Krwonall from the right point is wide.
6:19: Franzen lifts aw wrister from the left wing on net. Fleury hugs the near post and covers it.
6:15: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Quincey chucks a wrister from the left point. Fleury eats it up.
5:37: Helm snaps off a wrister from the left wing. Fleury eats it up.
4:14: Brian Gibbons does what he does best. He dwas ap enalty. Jokine races for a loose puck on the Penguins' right wing wall. Gibbons yells "Juice! Juice!" and Jokinen taps it ahead to the neutral zone. GIbbons pushes the puck through the neutral zone, gets a step on Lashoff and attacks the. Lashoff resorts to tripping him. That's two minutes for holding. Crosby Neal, Kunitz, Martin and Niskanen take the ice.
2:55: Letang races up the right wing and snap off a wrister from a bad angle. Gustavsson fights it off.
2:14: The Lashoff minor is killed with little threat from the Penguins.
1:33: Franzen chucks a wrister from the right wing. Orpik blocks it. Franzen chucks the rebound on net. Fleury knocks it dead and smothers. A scrum breaks out with Scuderi and Nyquist in the middle of it.
1:34: WOW! Tatar has two chance at a loose puck in tight but can't get them past a scrambling Fleury.
1:15: Ugh! Kronwall chops a one-timer from the right point. It hits the stick of Martin and hops up in the hair. It clanks off the cross bar and into the cage. A tie game late. Sheahan gets credit for the goal. A roar from Red Wings fans behind the net confirms the goal. Penguins 3, Red Wings 3.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Red Wings 3.
-The Red Wings have a 34-20 lead in shots on net.
4:27: A one-timer by Datsyuk from the right circle is fought off by Fleury.
2:40: Taking a sneaky pass from Sutter, Stempniak coast in off the left wing and attacks the net. He goes with a forehand shot but is robbed by a sprawling Gustavsson.
2:18: A wrister by Nyquist in the slot is blocked out of play.
1:48: Neal challenges Quincey one-on-one off the right wing but Quincey knocks him off the puck.
1:40: A one-timer by Martin from the right point is kicked out by Gustavsson.
0:55: Tatar gets three chances from in tight but can't get it behind Fleury. Tatar shredded the Penguins' defense there.
0:15: Franzen tries to chip and chase puck from left wing on the Penguins' blue line and is smacked to the ice by Orpik. Frazen crashes to the ice and loses his stick.
0:08: Neal fires a last second (or eight seconds) wrister from the left circle. Gustavsson challenges and fights it off.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Red Wings 3.
-The Red Wings lead in shots on net, 37-24.
-Neal is up first. He takes the puck right down the slot and rips a wrister over the cage.
-Alfredsson comes down he slot with speed. He avoids a poke check by Fleury, dekes to his backhand but is denied by Fleury who reaches back and juuust barely hold the puck out with his glove hand. Wow.
-Crosby gos down the slot slowly, dekes a million times and is denied on a forehand shot by Gustavsson's right leg.
-Datsyuk glides down the slot, flinches a bit and lifts a wrister over the cage.
-Wow. Just wow. Jussi Jokinen, so snake bit all season scores the flukiest shoot out you've ever seen. He goes wide to the right, loses the puck, recovers it for a moment and has it poke checked by Gustavsson. The puck hops up and over Gustavsson into the cage. What!?!? Penguins 1-0.
-Tatar must scores. He goes wide to right, levels out and cuts across the front of the crease. As Fleury sprawls to his right, Tatar simply runs out of space and lifts a wrister which Fleury swallows up. End of shootout. Penguins 1, Red Wings 0. End of game. Penguins 4, Red Wings 3.
-No one looking at this game objectively should dispute that the Penguins were outplayed. They where for large stretches of this game. The Red Wings controlled the puck better and generated a lot more quality scoring chances. If not for a few lucky bounces... especially one lucky bounce in the shootout ... and the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Red Wings would have come away with a clean two points.
-What is up for dispute is how true of an approach to this game the Penguins offered. Will the Penguins take this same plan of attack once the postseason starts? By Dan Bylsma's own suggestion, the Penguins did not plan to offer a true game plan for this contest. Were they outplayed by a better team or because they didn't play their game (to borrow from the lexicon of Penguins fans)?
-Kris Letang looked like he belonged on an NHL rink. He did not look like a person who suffered a stroke 70 days ago. He wasn't at his best. No one could reasonably expect Letang to be at that level. But he was an asset. He didn't really get too involved in rushes up ice as he normally does but he did make one rush to create the Penguins' third goal which was a work of art. Letang was on the ice for two of the Red Wings goals but we would hardly pinpoint blame on him. This was a first step and it was a mostly positive one.
-Letang had 22:30 of ice time on 25 shifts. Broken down:
Even strength: 20:06
Power play: 1:10
-Additionally, Letang had two shots on net, five attempted shots and three blocked shots.
-If James Neal misses Evgeni Malkin, he shook off those doldrums tonight. He scored two key goals which tied the game each time. He also scored each time on the power play. Neal didn't have a perfect game but he showed something.
-Fleury was outstanding. The Red Wings controlled the puck in the Penguins' zone quite a bit and Fleury turned away a ton of quality shots. If not for a fluky hope, the Penguins and Fleury win this in regulation.
-Fleury shined in ovetime and the shootout to win the game. His save on Daniel Alfedsson in the shootout was something Dominik Hasek would be proud of.
-Speaking of fluky hops, how about Jussi Jokinen? Prior to Sunday's win in Colorado, he had been 0 for 6. A few posts were part of that total. Sunday, he gets his first shootout score of the season. Tonight, he gets a tremendous stroke of luck to win the game. Additionally, his regulation goal was a little leaky. Jussi Jokinen lived right tonight.
-The bottom six forwards continued to offer little in five-on-five play. Brandon Sutter and Lee Stempniak showed a few flashes but beyond that, the third and fourth lines were just non-entities most of the night.
-Taylor Pyatt has size but he rarely uses it. Mike Rupp is a big guy and you always knew it anytime he took the ice. Pyatt is a big guy but you often times have to remind yourself anytime he takes the ice.
-Brian Gibbons continues to do enough little things to contribute. His hustle to draw a late penalty was typical of what he offers.
-Special teams were strong for the Penguins tonight. They struck on two of four power power plays they had and the snuffed out both of the Red Wings' power plays.
-The Red Wings led in shots on net, 37-24.
-The Red Wings had a 64-50 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal led the game with six shots.
-Tatar and Franzen each led the Red Wings with four shots.
-Niklas Kronwall led the game with 27:50 of ice time.
-Paul Martin led the Penguins with 27:33.
-The Red Wings controlled faceoffs, 35-20 (64 percent).
-Sutter was 10 for 12 (83 percent).
-Darren Helm was 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Kronwall led the game with six shots.
-Martin, Tanner Glass and Letang each led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
-The Penguins won their 100th regular game all-time at Consol Energy Center.
-Letang (228 points) moved ahead of Jan Hrdina (227) for 35th place on the franchise's career scoring list.
-Matt Niskanen (84 points) moved into 100th place on the franchise's career scoring list. He move ahead of Darius Kasparaitis (83).