It seems like a long time ago, to me at least, but at the beginning of 2013 the NHL world was still in a lockout, but the ice quickly thawed, an agreement between players and owners was reached and the games were back. Below we'll take a look at the Pensburgh archives to take a look at the biggest stories of the year for the Pens.
The lockout ended, and the strong play of Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar re-united in Magnitogorsk had rumors going the Pens would try to swing a deal to get the veteran blueliner back…Brian Strait got claimed by the New York Islanders in a numbers pinch, with the Pens deciding to keep Robert Bortuzzo over Strait. With Eric Tangradi not meshing on the second line, the Pens claim Carolina forward Zach Boychuk off waivers to see if he could work out.
On February 5th I started talking about the possibility of Jarome Iginla as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Two days later Ben Lovejoy was traded to Anaheim for a 2014 5th round pick. Two weeks after joining the Pens, we already had the hunch that the Boychuk experiment wasn’t going to be a success. The Pens traded Tangradi to Winnipeg for a 2013 7th round pick and called up Beau Bennett from the minors the next day, and he hasn’t been in a Wilkes-Barre jersey since…Dan Bylsma celebrated 4 years as the head coach. Evgeni Malkin suffered a concussion. The Pens just couldn’t quit Mark Eaton and brought him back for another season.
Malkin came back from his concussion and the Pens pulled the plug on the Boychuk era (he was re-claimed on waivers by Carolina)…On March 7th I wondered out loud what the Pens would have to give up for Iginla (which ended up being less than they did)…Marc-Andre Fleury set the Penguins franchise record for most shutouts…Ray Shero traded for long-time Dallas Star Brenden Morrow! Then the next day he added Douglas Murray! Then two days later he finalized the Iginla deal sending Pens fan into joy over-drive..But the day after it happened we cautioned that the way Pascal Dupuis was playing could mean that Iginla wouldn’t be able to be on a line with Sidney Crosby. The Penguins won all 15 games they played in March, but Crosby broke his jaw in the final game of the month, and Paul Martin broke his arm the game before hand.
James Neal got a concussion. The Pens clinched the Atlantic Division. News of the outdoor game on 3/1/2014 in Chicago came out. The Pens got locked down in their hotel while the manhunt following the Boston bombing, postponing a Pens/Bruins game a day, and reminding us all that it’s a scary world out there. The Pens finished with the #1 seed in the East and a first round date with the New York Islanders, but Crosby’s status was still in doubt.
The Pens went up 2 games to 0 in the Islanders series, getting Crosby back for Game 2. Then they lost Game 3 and cracks in their, and Fleury’s armor, were giving us flashbacks. Letang was named a Norris finalist. Islanders win Game 4 and we are officially concerned. Tomas Vokoun comes in for Game 5 and the Pens win 4-0. Crosby was named a Hart Trophy finalist. Brooks Orpik scores his first career playoff goal, in overtime, to send the Isles home in Game 6. I argue the Pens have to start Fleury against Ottawa and was wisely over-ruled. Crosby named a finalist for the Masterton trophy. Pittsburgh fairly easily wins the first two games over the Senators and we point out that they own Craig Anderson. Ottawa wins Game 3, but loses Game 4 and Daniel Alfredsson admits they are probably going to lose the series. James Neal obliges them with a hat trick in Game 5 in a Pittsburgh 6-2 win.
The Bruins win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, and we question the Pens tactics. The Pens lay their biggest stinker of the year, losing 6-1 in Game 2 and we’re stunned. We wonder if Fleury should start Game 3 (he doesn’t) and Pittsburgh loses a heart-breaking double overtime game. Then a good effort fell short in a 1-0 loss in Game 4, and suddenly one of the most shocking sweeps was over seemingly as soon as it started, leaving Bylsma and the Pens to need a culture shock. Gilles Meloche was out as goalie coach but Shero announced four days after the season was over that Bylsma’s job was safe. Evgeni Malkin signed to eight year, $9.5 million cap hit…Chris Kunitz re-signs for three years and a $3.85 million cap hit…Pascal Dupuis re-signed for four years and a $3.75 million cap hit…Tyler Kennedy gets traded to San Jose on draft day for a 2ndround pick that the Pens trade and get goalie prospect Tristan Jarry.
Rob Scuderi is back in the ‘Burgh, to the tune of four years and $3.375 on the free agent market…Kris Letang re-signs for eight years and $7.25 million per year…Morrow, Iginla and Matt Cooke all find new homes in free agency.
Malkin talks about Ilya Kovalchuk, who jumped from a long-term NHL contract to the KHL and says he won’t be doing the same thing….Jacques Martin joins the Penguins as an assistant coach, Natasha and TKN join Pensburgh as authors.
Derrick Pouliot takes #1 prospect in extensive Pensburgh poll and feature. Vokoun has surgery for blood clots in his pelvis, throwing his playing career into the unknown. The Pens finalize their roster, with some unexpected surprises to the tune of tryout Chuck Kobasew and 19 year old Olli Maatta making the team out of camp.
The Pens keep Maatta, Malkin struggles, Fleury shines, injuries start to mount with Scuderi (broken ankle) going down but the Pens go 9-4-0 on the month and end up at the top of the weaker than expected Metropolitan Division.
Jeff Zatkoff starts to emerge as a NHL backup, recording his first win and shutout. Injuries pile up mightily, but the team finishes with a 9-5-1 record on the strength of Fleury, Crosby and Malkin, Chris Kunitz scoring a ton and great effort from depth players.
Brooks Orpik gets attacked by Shawn Thornton after James Neal kneed Brad Marchand in the head. Deryk Engelland suspended for five games the next week, leading to Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson to make their NHL debuts. With Vokoun’s future still unknown, Zatkoff extended for two years. Pascal Dupuis blows out his knee, James Neal is on fire and Natasha completes a really great Olympic preview series on Pensburgh as the Pens complete a 11-2-0 record (today’s game notwithstanding) to have them comfortably out in front of all their middling Metropolitan rivals and set up nicely for 2014.
Total record (regular season) : 64-23-1
Playoff record: 8-7
Best moments: Going 15-0 in March, the joy of the Iginla trade announcement, the OT series clincher vs. the Isles, strong November/December record despite massive injury list
Worst moments: Swept in the ECF, Fleury playing 2 bad games in the playoffs, Crosby’s broken jaw, all of the injuries to Malkin, Letang, Neal, Dupuis, Vokoun, Bennett, Orpik, Martin, Scuderi and everyone else.