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From A to Z: the decade that was for the Penguins

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The 2010’s had extreme highs, lows and everything in between.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres Getty Images

Time moves fast. Here was what the Penguins’ looked line in the first game of the 2010’s.

Only three players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang) made it to the end of the decade with the Pens, though Bill Guerin almost did in a front office capacity. Just six players from this game (the aforementioned three plus Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Goligoski and Jordan Staal) are still playing competitively, all in the NHL.

And last night for the last game they were as followed:

It is interesting to think of what players from the above will still be around playing for the Pens in 2030? (Which doesn’t that feel like it’s a million years away). Maybe John Marino? Maybe Jake Guentzel? Maybe none? I guess we’ll find out.

But, looking back on the decade that was the Pens used 155 different skaters and 13 different goalies in the decade of the 2010’s for a regular season game. Ten of them only played one single game. Eleven of them played 300+ games. There was everything from the franchise cornerstones and players who will one day have their jersey retired (like Crosby and Malkin) to hall of famers just passing through (Jarome Iginla, anyone?) to players who only got to play one single game in the NHL (Carl Sneep).

We saw first round picks and undrafted free agents alike, a former Hobey Baker winner (Kevin Porter), players drafted that took the better part of the decade to finally make it (like Teddy Blueger), to players that signed and jumped right in (like Marino). There were everything across the age gamut from teenagers like Olli Maatta and quadragenarians like Bill Guerin and Matt Cullen. We saw players in second stints in Pittsburgh (Alexei Kovalev) to players who became second generation Penguins (like Ulf’s son Philip Samuelsson or Scott Bjugstad’s nephew Nick) to the one western PA native who got to wear the hometown colors (Dylan Reese).

There were all sorts of funny coincidences from A-to-Z like a Cal (O’Reilly) and a Kael (Mouillerat). A Strait (Brian) and a Streit (Mark). A Ryan Craig, a Craig Adams and a couple more Adams (Clendening, Payerl and Johnson). You had your Simon Despres and a Dominik Simon. A Paul Martin and a Martin Skoula. A Dustin Jeffrey and a Jeff Zatkoff. Speaking of Z’s, there’s been the Zbynek’s (Michalek) and Zolnierczyk’s.

Johnson was the most common surname of the decade (Adam, Brent, Jack, Nick), There were six Matt/Matthew’s (Cooke, Cullen, D’Agostino, Hunwick, Murray Niskanen). But also a Deryk, Derick, Derrick or Derek depending on if you’re a Engelland, Brassard, Pouliot or Grant. We saw Tanner’s and Tyler’s, Tim’s and Tom’s, Trevor’s and Tristan’s and Teddy’s galore.

Location-wise, the Pens played in 32 different NHL cities this year, with Atlanta dropping out of the league and Vegas entering it. Pittsburgh had two home arenas with the departed Civic Arena fading into a parking lot, and PPG Paints Arena rising from politics to construction to a reality. The Pens also got to play at the home of the Steelers, Heinz Field, twice this decade. And another time outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago too.

Some other various random Penguins 2010’s regular season stats:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury started 52.1% of the games (409 out of 784) in net.
  • The highest scoring game by a player came at the very beginning of the decade when Crosby rang up NYI for six points (2G+4A) on January 19, 2010.
  • There were 14 five point games: Malkin (x6), Crosby (x3) Phil Kessel, James Neal, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz and perhaps the most surprising a March 26, 2016 five point game by Nick Bonino vs Detroit (which was also Kessel’s five point game, HBK!).
  • Kunitz scored four goals on February 3rd, 2013 against Washington for the biggest single-game performance in the regular season there.
  • Including that Kunitz four goal game, there were 31 hat tricks for the Pens in the decade. Malkin (x8), Crosby (x7), Kunitz (x3), Neal (x3), Jake Guentzel (x2), Patric Hornqvist (x2), Bryan Rust (x2) and one each for Kessel, Bonino, Blake Comeau and Jussi Jokinen.
  • There were three games where a player rang up 5 assists: two for Crosby and one for Letang.
  • Paul Martin played the most minutes in a single game with 35:26 against NJ on March 4, 2011.
  • There were 8 games where a player played 32+ minutes. Letang (x6), Martin (x2).
  • The most minutes a forward played in a game was Jordan Staal at 29:01 vs San Jose on February 23, 2011.

It was a decade of highs from the Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first and only team in the salary cap era to go back-to-back. To the lows of getting swept twice in the playoffs this decade. There was individual awards and league-wide hardware, but also more robbed by devastating injuries. We saw highs from arguably one of the best coaches in the league (Sullivan) to one of the worst (Johnston). General managers that struggled, but also found their way. Super-sized trades bringing in and pushing out super-talented players like Neal and Kessel.

It was a lot of things, but it was eventful. Pensburgh went from a middling blog to one of the top two or three on the hockey side of things, with major traffic increases every single year. 2018 was our biggest year ever, even bigger than the interest of the Cup wins in 2016 and 2017 that built us to great heights. By November 25th, 2019 already had better numbers than 2018. So thanks for being along for the ride and here’s to all the twists and turns bound to happen in the future! All the best to a great decade.