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#TribHKY POSTGAME: On Letang caring, Zatkoff thinking, Malkin scoring and Orpik battering.

A lot will be made about Kris Letang between now and when the Penguins next play at home.

Too much, probably.

Certainly, too much about what has him frustrated – particularly the part about him paying attention to public criticism of his performances dating to last postseason.

So, the problem people have is that he cares what they think?

Right.

Letang has proven himself many things in our seven seasons together.

Mostly, he has proven himself a deeply introspective person, somebody that cares deeply what people think of him and about his place within the organization and sport he loves.

The promise of big money – like the $58 million guaranteed to him starting next season – will not change this about Letang.

It should not change this about Letang.

His want to play on the power play and perform is not selfish. He desires to represent his country at the Olympics, and at 26 this may prove his last great chance. Racking power-play points could give him an edge on competition that is a deep corps of defensemen for Canada.

His want to carry the puck is not misguided. Few players at his position, perhaps only Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, can match Letang’s ability to dictate offensively. The puck is better served on his stick blade.

His want to be recognized as the Penguins’ top defenseman is not unreasonable. Money only means so much. The respect of coaches and management can mean more to a player that is set financially for generations.

Letang is unfairly labeled a lot of ways within the media and by fans.

Criticize his performance, not his thoughts.

And remember when doing that that his biggest crime is that he cares.

 

>> What has Letang so frustrated? Read all about it: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5157570-74/letang-season-penguins#axzz2lmT0ecIp

 

>> Another injury to a key defenseman has the Penguins in a bind: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5139532-74/martin-bylsma-played#axzz2lmT0ecIp

 

>>  Josh Yohe on the AHL callups: http://triblive.com/sports/-topstories/5144184-74/barre-wilkes-penguins#axzz2lmT0ecIp

 

>> Penguins 6, Maple Leafs 5 – and it was wild: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5139531-74/dec-penguins-jan#axzz2lmT0ecIp

 

>> ROSSI’S RULINGS

*** Jeff Zatkoff’s quote in the game story offers a glimpse of something we see daily from the Penguins’ backup goalie. He is as contemplative a quote as almost anybody I’ve covered. Talking to goalie coach Mike Bales, it is clear that Zatkoff’s sharp mind makes him ideally suited to go long stretches without playing. As Bales has said, Zatkoff gets more out of a practice than almost anybody.

*** A Russian TV crews has spent the last two days following around Evgeni Malkin, of whom a lot more is being asked (media wise) because the upcoming Winter Olympics are in his native Russia. Malkin claims to hate this kind of attention. If he keeps up this white-hot pursuit of teammate Sidney Crosby in the scoring race, it will not go away.

You might have noticed Malkin is playing in all three zones more than at any time during recent regular-season memory. That is no accident. Alex Ovechkin noted that Malkin’s role could be different for Russia than it is the Penguins. That role, at least at even strength, will likely be difference-making third-line center.

Remember what Jordan Staal meant to the Penguins during the 2009 Stanley Cup run? Malkin is Russia’s Staal.

Shudder at the thought Dan Bylsma probably does.

*** Brooks Orpik played 26 minutes against Toronto. No wonder he headed straight for the training room. He is 33, and has played 744 hard NHL games. Indeed, the Penguins are banged up on defense, but Orpik cannot be overextended. He is too important for the playoff run to beat up now.

 

Be THANKFUL for each other,

Rossi

 

 

 

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

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