Tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue west – like way west – on their almost-annual Western Canada road trip to take on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. If Wednesday’s game with the Jets is used as a benchmark, then it may take dueling hat tricks from Crosby and McDavid to reach the bar that’s been set. But given the history of the Western Canada road trip, would that really be too much to ask for?
Maybe it’s just me, but this particular trip has always stuck out like a sore thumb on the schedule. This probably has a lot to do with some of my personal most memorable goals, games, and Penguins wins coming via this road trip.
Some Kind of Streak
February 4, 2015 (Penguins at Oilers) – In what was actually a pretty boring 2-0 victory in Edmonton, David Perron’s second-period tally marked his seventh goal in just 13 games since being acquired from the home team – oh, what could have been. Anyways, the best part wasn’t the goal – which was equally as meh as the game itself.
Kris Letang’s assist on Perron’s goal marked his eighth assist in the Penguins’ previous nine goals. I think by now we all know how important Letang is to this team. But factoring in on nearly 90% of goals over a five-game span is pretty telling of how much of an impact he makes when he is on his game.
January 7, 2014 (Penguins at Canucks) – For the first time since his gold-medal-clinching goal for Canada in the 2010 Olympics, Sidney Crosby returned to Rogers Arena. And, in typical Sidney Crosby fashion, he rose to the occasion. With the Penguins’ net empty as they trailed 4-2 late in the third period, Crosby won a draw and earned an assist on a Kris Letang goal. Just 15 seconds later, he corraled a bouncing puck with his skate and scored a goal of his own – with under a minute remaining – to send the game to overtime. Crosby then proceeded to score the only goal in the shootout to secure the come-from-behind win.
Despite Sid’s efforts, he still couldn’t edge out Zach Kassian for the game’s first star. Or Chris Higgins for the second star. Or Kris Letang for the third star.
Starting without Sid
October 6, 2011 (Penguins at Canucks) – Remember that one time Matt Cooke really messed up bad and had to prove that he could change his style of play and contribute to the team without being a detriment to it? Whether you believe he lived up to his promise or not is up to you. But his two-goal performance in the 2011 season opener against his former team sure helped his cause.
With Sidney Crosby out for the start of the season with a concussion, and on the road facing a team fresh off a Stanley Cup appearance, the Penguins needed a shootout to settle the score. While he didn’t score the game-winner – Malkin did – Kris Letang’s shootout goal was one of his most memorable. In what seemed to become his go-to move in the shootout, Letang went forehand-backhand and beat Roberto Luongo clean.
A certain tally last June pushed it a bit farther down the list, but this remains one of my favorite Kris Letang goals.
They Weren’t All Wins
October 9, 2011 (Penguins at Oilers) – First overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made an instant impact in his NHL debut, scoring the game-tying goal with under five minutes to play in an eventual 2-1 shootout win for the Oilers.
Four years after being traded, longtime Oiler forward Ryan Smyth made his return to Rexall Place. And it couldn’t possibly have been less triumphant than Nugent-Hopkins’ debut. Smyth recorded 0 points and 0 shots on goal in over 18 minutes of ice time and received a five-minute major penalty for elbowing Chris Kunitz, as well as a game misconduct.
Basically, if Ryan Smyth wasn’t a total disaster, I would have never remembered this game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – as far as first overall picks go – wasn’t considered a generational talent, the Penguins lost in a low-scoring game, and neither Geno or Sid were in the lineup. But Ryan Smyth was a disaster. So I still remember this one.
Saddledome Erupts After Sid Splits the Defense
January 13, 2010 (Penguins at Flames) – Sidney Crosby scored his 30th goal of the season en route to a 3-1 Penguins win in Calgary. As great as the goal was, the best part may have been the reaction from the building after it was scored. It was only Sid’s second time playing in the Saddledome and you could tell that those in attendance, Penguins fans and Flames fans alike, were in awe of what they had just witnessed. I mean, just listen to this. Also, get in the gym Jay Bouwmeester.
Let’s hope that some of these moments of greatness continue tonight.