Penguins aren't hesitating to comment on referee's calls
March 17, 2015 12:00 AM
Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang reacts after being called for a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Sunday against the Red Wings at Consol Energy Center. Letang was ejected halfway through the second period for something he said to referees.
Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang had a telling answer for reporters Monday when he was among the last to leave the ice after an optional team practice at Southpointe’s Iceoplex.
“I didn’t skate for too long [Sunday] afternoon so wanted to get in a little bit more,” said Letang from his locker room stall.
No he didn’t.
Letang was ejected Sunday halfway through the second period for something he said to referees, capping a team performance that renewed the unflattering reputation that paints the Penguins as complainers that can’t keep their cool.
Discipline problems Sunday reared their ugly head to the tune of four 10-minute misconducts, one ejection and 64 total penalty minutes.
“I think [compared] to a few years ago I think we’ve been better, but it’s the way that people see us,” said Letang. “They think we’re always all over the referees. We need to get better at that. Even better than what we did this year. We have to control what we can control and not worry about those things.”
Coach Mike Johnston said he has, at times this year, seen his team react in ways he doesn’t like.
In his estimation it is the coaching staff and designated team leaders that should speak with officials. But no one else.
“The other players shouldn’t be dealing with officials at all. So it’s mainly [through] the leadership group and the coaches how you deal with the officials. It has an impact as you move forward, for sure,” said Johnston. “The referees talk to each other. You don’t want to have the reputation of being the team that complains, that whines, that does those types of things. I don’t believe that we have, but I’ve seen some signs during the course of the year that I don’t like and we have to address them as they come up.”
Letang never shared the words that came out his mouth before he was ejected, preferring to leave them in the past.
He did say the league’s referees must think of the Penguins as complainers.
“Yeah, yeah. Oh definitely. For years. And we’re not afraid of saying it. We’ve been all over the referees, yelling and complaining,” said Letang. “I think we’ve made strides this year but I think it’s not perfect yet and for sure the referee thinks the same thing. At the end of the day, I don’t think it should matter in a game.”
He stopped short of saying it likely changes the way officials call his teams games, but admitted they are unlikely “to take your side if you give them a hard time.”
Johnston said he has already addressed the team about how to behave and hopes Sunday was an aberration.
“As we head down the stretch here going into playoffs, the referees we see here are obviously going to ref the playoff games,” said Johnston. “You want to make sure that you’re dealing with them in the right way. There’s a way to deal with them and a way not to deal with them and [Sunday] was the wrong way for sure.”
Things have to change, said winger Steve Downie, responsible for 22 of those 64 penalty minutes Sunday.
The Penguins begin a three game road trip tonight in New Jersey then head to Dallas and Arizona as the regular season quickly reaches its apex.
“It might’ve been a chippy game, a couple things might not have been seen. But at the end of the day we can’t complain, we can’t argue,” said Downie. “We’ve just got to block them out and just play the game. We can’t let distractions bother us that much especially this time of year. We’ve got to move on and start building this thing.”
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez
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