Rookie of the year
Finalists: Tristan Jarry, Dominik Simon, Zach Aston-Reese
Jarry started 23 games this season for Pittsburgh, and for a crucial stretch in the months of December+January he started a team-high 13 games going 7-4 with a .923 save% and 2 shutouts. That helped the Pens stay afloat while Matt Murray was injured and had to deal with the loss of this father.
Why no mention of Casey DeSmith? Well the NHL says: “Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.” DeSmith, who turned 26 last August 13th, just missed the mark by a month and a few days to officially be an NHL rookie. Plus Jarry had almost double the NHL games to DeSmith (26 to 14) and more than double the wins (14 to 6) so he’s a better candidate anyways as far as impact on the Pens season has gone....So now you know.
Hockey Hugs award (skater on ice for most goals for, all situations)
For being on ice for 130 of the team’s total goals, Phil Kessel got more hockey hugs than anyone else on the team this year. He deserved every one of them!
Rico Fata award (skater on ice for most goals against, all situations)
On ice for 109 goals and to the surprise of few, Kris Letang saw the most unfriendly red lights this season.
MV-PK (Most Valuable PK’er)
This one might surprise though. Letang’s total of 204:34 season PK time ranked 2nd on the team (and was only a minute behind the top PKer in Hagelin).
What sets Letang apart is how little (relatively speaking) the opposition scored while he was on the ice. His total PK Goals Against per 60 minutes for 2017-18 was 5.55. PK darling to some, Ian Cole, had a 6.86 GA/60 in Pittsburgh this season, for comparison.
Also for comparison the other huge top PKers on the Pens all had significantly higher GA/60 than Letang; Hagelin (6.45), Riley Sheahan (7.08) and Brian Dumoulin (7.43).
Nicolas Cage Award (For best performance in Face Offs)
No doubt on this one. Did you know Pittsburgh as a team had 5,118 faceoffs this season? Sidney Crosby took 1,935 of them, or almost 38% of the total draws for the team, winning a tidy 53.0% of them. This was even higher than the 34.9% total faceoffs Crosby took for the Pens last playoff.
League-wide Crosby was 2nd (behind Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly) in total faceoffs and 27th in winning them, minimum 800 on the year.
A stick-tap to Sheahan who won 54.2% (18th in the league) of his 1,033 draws. But it’s the quantity of Crosby’s work that sets him apart with almost double the workload.
Black and Blue award (Most hits+blocked shots)
This one might be impossible to believe, but it’s true. Olli Maatta was credited this season with 131 hits and 115 blocked shots. That’s a black-n-blue number of 246. No Penguins player took more combined physicality.
The Pens only had 4 shootouts in 2017-18, among the lowest in the league. For skaters, both Crosby and Malkin went 2-for-4 which is good but doesn’t really stand out. Matt Murray stopped 7 of 9 shots (.777 save%) and boasted a 2-1 record in shootouts. (DeSmith gave up 2 goals on just 3 shots and lost the other shootout of the year).
Just for funsies, minimum 9 shot attempts, Murray was t-10th in the league this year in the shootout. Former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury (who has been one of the very best SO goalies in the league since it’s inception in 2005-06) ranked 18th with a .692 save%.
Kessel and Crosby tied for a team-lead of 3 overtime goals a piece so they will share this award.
In golf, it’s a great thing to get a green jacket. In hockey...not so much. Carter Rowney (a -13 in 44 games) had the worst plus/minus on the team this season.
Skate of shame award (most penalties taken)
With a team-high 36 minor penalties taken, the Penguins bad boy of the year goes to...Evgeni Malkin!
Finalists: Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby
Malkin was the only player in the league to finish top-5 in goals (42) and points (98). He stayed unusually healthy this year playing 78 games, his most games played since the 2008-09 season, so unsurprisingly his goals, assists and points were the highest they’ve been since the 2012 lockout.
A great regular season and now we look ahead to the playoffs where hopefully more awards are yet in store for this team!