Firstly of the 12 months, many NHL specialists counted the Pittsburgh Penguins out, saying this may be the primary time because the 2005-06 season they’d miss the playoffs. Not solely did the Penguins quiet the critics and make the postseason, however they completed first in what was checked out because the hardest division within the league.
After the 56-game 2020-21 NHL season, the Penguins completed with a file of 37-16-3 for 77 factors, high within the MassMutual East Division. It wasn’t straightforward, and it took all the squad to contribute, however now we glance again on the high gamers on the staff.
Let’s take a while to acknowledge the gamers that helped the Penguins attain the postseason with some staff 2020-21 staff awards.
Rookie of the 12 months: Pierre-Oliver Joseph
The 2020-21 season didn’t characteristic many standout rookies for the Penguins; Most first-year gamers had been temporary call-ups with not a lot time to make an impression. Whereas guys like Radim Zohorna and Anthony Angello confirmed vivid spots, defenseman Joseph stood out from the slim crowd.
In 16 video games within the NHL this season, Joseph confirmed why he’s among the Penguins’ high prospects. He performed a lot better than only a purpose and 4 assists, and he needed to fill in when many Penguins defensemen went down with accidents early within the season. Forcing to common 16 minutes of ice time per sport, Joseph, for a couple of video games, needed to play with Kris Letang on the primary unit.
The long run is vivid for Joseph, as this 12 months’s temporary stint within the NHL is just the primary chapter in his story.
Finest Goalie: Tristan Jarry
Jarry stands out as the straightforward reply, however he performed properly for his first season as a full-time NHL starter. And bear in mind, there was a time he was the top of commerce rumors when the staff employed a brand new basic supervisor. He performed a career-high 39 video games and was capable of bounce again from a frighteningly sluggish begin. Jarry was 2-4-1 with a .857 save share (sv%) via the primary month of the season.
From that time on, nonetheless, Jarry was a very completely different netminder. He would end out the season 25-9-3, stopping a clear 1000 pictures for a .909 save share and a goals-against common of two.75. Tack on a pair of shutouts and a few contributions offensively with 4 assists, you will have one of many higher seasons put up by a Pittsburgh goalie in current reminiscence.
Finest Newcomer: Jeff Carter
In solely 14 video games with the Penguins, Carter already confirmed that he’s the perfect acquisition the staff made this 12 months. He could have been the only trade deadline move, however new GM Ron Hextall performed good and didn’t make the rash choices that would have negatively affected the staff. Carter has already gained over the hearts of Pens followers and they are going to be anticipating him to make a huge impact within the playoffs.
In his 14 video games with Pittsburgh, Carter put up 11 factors (9-2—11) which included a four-goal sport in opposition to the Buffalo Sabres simply earlier than the tip of the season. He sits one purpose shy of 400 on his profession however has mentioned he plans to maintain taking part in subsequent 12 months.
Largest Shock Impression: Cody Ceci
Nobody anticipated something good to return from the Ceci signing. Many followers rapidly wrote him off as one other Jack Johnson state of affairs. However Ceci, after being wholesome scratched early within the season, discovered a groove and hasn’t left it since. In 53 video games he has averaged 18:31 minutes of ice per night time and that’s precisely how he ought to be utilized.
The issue groups just like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators had with Ceci is that they had been utilizing him within the improper roles. Toronto had him on the primary defensive unit with Morgan Rielly; that’s an excessive amount of for a participant like Ceci, who has thrived in Pittsburgh on the second, typically third pairing. He scored 4 targets and 13 assists for 17 factors in 53 video games this season.
Breakout Participant: Kasperi Kapanen
He was primed for a breakout year from the beginning, Kapanen could have arrived to the staff late, however he didn’t miss a step in producing successful hockey. Regardless of the place within the lineup he performed, he proved to be price bringing again to Pittsburgh. He and linemate Evgeni Malkin have shaped such unimaginable chemistry on the ice, regardless of Kapanen being acquired to play with Sidney Crosby. For a time, Kapanen and Malkin might have been checked out as the perfect second line within the NHL, irrespective of who performed with them.
Because of a visa concern early on and an damage within the latter phases of the season, Kapanen was solely capable of play in 40 video games this season however was a noticeable pressure in each. 11 targets and 19 assists for 30 factors sit him at sixth in staff scoring and one in all 5 gamers to hit 10 targets.
Finest Defenseman: Kris Letang
The very best defenseman this franchise has ever seen, Letang added to his resume with one other spectacular season. The 2020-21 season could have began tough for Letang, however he was capable of bounce again to achieve fourth on the staff in scoring and shut down opposing forwards. Solely lacking one sport this season, he scored seven targets and 38 assists for 45 factors, the third-most on the staff.
If you constantly common over 24 minutes of ice time per night time, errors are sure to be made. Letang’s concern for some time was the variety of errors that may be made, however he was capable of reel in his sport and return to elite kind regardless of being on the plus aspect of 30. It may not have been a Norris Trophy caliber season, but it surely was sufficient to be checked out as the perfect the Penguins noticed this 12 months.
Taxi Squad MVP: Frederick Gaudreau
The Penguins made good use of their taxi squad, particularly in a season that noticed a near-league lead in damage numbers. Frederick Gaudreau used his alternative as a taxi squad member to achieve the NHL and presumably change into a regular in the lineup heading into the playoffs.
Gaudreau labored his means again into the NHL and earned the proper to remain there. In 19 video games he scored two targets and eight assists for a career-high 10 factors. Not unhealthy for a fourth-liner with little or no prior expertise.
Workforce MVP: Sidney Crosby
Selected as team MVP by his teammates and may very well be within the working for the Hart Trophy because the league’s MVP, Crosby continued his dominance with the Penguins. Additionally, solely lacking one sport, he put up 24 targets and 38 assists to steer the staff with 62 factors. He, alongside Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, shaped probably the greatest first-lines within the NHL, at one level being the one trio to every have over 20 targets on the season.
It ought to go with out saying that Crosby is constantly the Penguins’ greatest participant yearly, this 12 months was no completely different. An enormous issue that performed into his nice season was his capability to remain wholesome, regardless of many of the lineup happening at one level or one other. Sid solely missed one sport and that was for COVID protocol causes. If he was compelled to overlook time as a consequence of a special damage, who is aware of what occurs with this staff. His regular presence was a giant cause the Penguins stayed afloat all season.
With just one postseason victory within the final two seasons, the Penguins look to proper the ship with a first-round sequence in opposition to the New York Islanders. Whereas the Penguins don’t have a great history against the Isles within the playoffs, possibly this time round could be completely different.
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Level Park College and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to video games for so long as he can bear in mind.