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Monday Mailbag: Kris Letang, petty slashing calls, debate on kicked in goals

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Our third edition of Monday Mailbag sets up a lot of opportunity for debate, with big-time topics like Kris Letang, how outrageous slashing calls have become, and whether or not the NHL should allow kicked in goals.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, folks. I dreadfully admit it’s Monday once again, and that means a fresh mailbag full of answered questions awaits you. The Pittsburgh Penguins did some very good things this week, winning two out of their three games, and it’s prompted you guys to come up with some interesting topics just itching for debate.

Firstly, let’s get this blurb out of the way for this feature’s first timers:

Throughout the week, don’t be shy about throwing my way your burning questions, hottest takes, or most interesting debate topics – NHL-related or otherwise – here in the comments, on Twitter @Pensburgh using #PensburghMailbag, on the site’s Facebook page, or directly to me via e-mail at kaitd3@gmail.com. There’s a solid chance I’ll answer just about anything that’s interesting, just make sure it’s appropriate and abides by our community guidelines.

And thus, we begin:

To be honest, I can’t figure out if Marty was being serious or not, but I felt the need to address this question anyway. Kris Letang is, and will continue to be, Pittsburgh’s best defenseman. Not only is he easily the Pens best offensive-minded d-men on the team, but he probably outranks most, if not all, defensemen in the NHL right now, save maybe Brent Burns. Letang has four points (one goal, three assists) in six games and a set up ability that is extremely technical and well thought out. It constantly shows in the passes he makes to guys for goals around the net in the offensive zone. All this evidence is supported by the fact that he tallied his 300th career assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he got the apple on a Jake Guentzel redirect.

To prove it, take a look at the way his mind works in his backhanded assist to Sidney Crosby during Saturday night’s game against the Florida Panthers.

Letang’s head is up the whole time after he corrals the puck, allowing him to see Crosby flying down to the left side of Panthers goalie James Reimer. He eyes his captain, lines up the pass, and saucers it perfectly into the crease, all while having his back turned from the net. Letang is also putting up crazy minutes of ice time each game, one in which he collected more than 27 total. This may be attributed to Ian Cole still being on injury reserve via a slap shot to the face, but it’s still giving Letang ample opportunity to create chaos in the opponent’s zone. If he stays healthy, his skill level will cause headaches for every team come crunch time.

I for one feel like the crackdown on slashing calls is a good idea that’s been poorly executed. Actual slashes are dangerous and have no place in hockey, but what the NHL has failed to do is fix the problem by penalizing anything and everything that even remotely looks like a slash, and rewarding teams with power-plays that can tip games in their favor so easily with a PP goal. This was evident in the game against the Washington Capitals, where Patric Hornqvist was sent to the box for a “slash” that was basically him coming up being a Washington player and tapping the paddle of his stick off the guy’s calf. That’s not a slash, that’s a terrible call that could’ve led to a Caps goal.

The way to properly call slashing calls has an easy solution that Elliotte Friedman nailed perfectly:

It’s that simple. Hopefully the NHL continues to tell its refs to ease off. I’d hate for this to carry over in the latter half of the season. Teams should beat other teams based on a properly called game. It’s laughable that this is still an issue facing today’s league.

From the desk of our very smart co-managing editor, Mike Darnay: “We don’t need one, we have the best player ever, and his name is Greg McKegg.”

(Yes, please stop asking me this, a decent 3C is needed because McKegg is better suited on the fourth line)

Good pal Morgan here dropped in two fire questions because he enjoys fun content, and I’m here to give him answers.

While I understand that disallowing kicked in goals can be frustrating if it’s your team that scored an important last-minute or go-ahead goal only to find out that the guy accidentally kicked it in instead of properly using his stick, I still firmly believe that it should stay that way. This is hockey, not soccer, and if hand passes are still wrongful offenses, then kicked in goals should be too. Use your stick; that’s what it’s there for. We can still find solace in pucks ricocheting off skates and into the cage, but if the puck is obviously kicked in on purpose, that’s a big no-no. Doubt that’ll ever change.

One thing I have noticed however is that players are taking advantage of the “distinct kicking motion” clause of the official rule, and instead, just turning their skate to ensure the puck bounces off them in such a way that perfectly aligns with a pathway to the goal. Sure, they didn’t technically break the rule, but it’s still the same principle. It really just depends on those minor details. At least we have challenges now to really examine the motion of guys skates in potential kicked in goals.

If you’d like to be featured in our weekly mailbag, be sure to submit your questions this week. The more the merrier.