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Insider Only PIT – NJD Fallout: Mental Lapses surrounding Penguins’ most important defenseman

Devils 4 – Penguins 3 (OT)

With a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils Friday night, mental lapses continue to be the theme surrounding the Penguins lately as the playoffs are just 18 days away.

The Penguins played a great first and third period but a disastrous stretch early in the second period saw the Devils score three times in a 3:39 span to go from trailing 1-0 to leading 3-1 after forty minutes.

“We have mental lapses for short periods of time and it’s costing us and you can’t have that this time of year,” head coach Mike Sullivan said afterwards.

The concerning part for the coaching staff is that some of these mental lapses are continuing to come from some of their best players defensively.

Some wonder if the Penguins can win a Stanley Cup with Chad Ruhwedel or Matt Hunwick as their No. 6 d-man.

Last post-season shows they can and whether the Penguins get back to the Stanley Cup Final or not isn’t going to come down to a No. 6 defenseman. And that’s the belief the Penguins came to when they had no problem including Ian Cole as a thrown-in to Ottawa for Derick Brassard to make the money work.

A bigger burning question for the Penguins heading down the stretch run and into the playoffs is the mental lapses surrounding Kris Letang’s game.

As good as Letang is when he’s on his game, he plays so much that the mental lapses around his game right now are killing the Penguins some nights.

It happened again in Friday’s loss to the Devils and the 4-on-4 goal allowed was another prime example.

In a 4-on-4 play, the Penguins in their own end play a man-to-man coverage and the job of any defenseman is to protect the front of the net.

Letang has coverage on Taylor Hall down the right side and as Hall makes a cross-ice pass, Letang goes for a stroll behind the net, leaving Nico Hischier all alone in front for a tap-in goal.

A defenseman the caliber of Letang, that just can’t happen in deciding to take a skate around the net.

Early in the season it was about getting Letang right physically, now as the playoffs are around the horizon, everything about Letang’s game is eliminating the mental mistakes.

They are plaguing Letang on a nightly basis and the frustration with the coaching staff saw them alter the first and second pairing after the Hischier goal Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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