Watch enough Penguins games and you’ll notice that certain guys are just total nuisances. Don’t they know their role is to play Jack Nicholson’s Joker to the black ‘n gold’s Michael Keaton’s Batman?
But such is the case, every good protagonist needs a worthy adversary and the Pens’ three Stanley Cups and only back-to-back titles in the salary cap era puts a target on them as a high profile opponent to knock down.
With a nod to a similar idea from our friends at All About the Jersey (where they shout out the mastery that Aleksey Morozov had over a little goalie named Martin Brodeur as well as Sidney Crosby torturing the Devils), let’s look at who has lit up Pittsburgh the most in the last five seasons with a tip to hockey-reference.
11th place: 16 points (four-way tie) — Sean Couturier [6g+10a in 19 games], Kyle Palmieri [10g+6a in 18 games], and Eric Staal [7g+9a in 17 games], Erik Karlsson [2g+14a in 13 games]
Palmieri is a player who sticks out because he’s not really a star, but he sure plays like one against Pittsburgh. Eric Staal has always been a thorn in the Pens’ side for his whole career. Karlsson’s puck moving ability has racked up numbers in assists against Pittsburgh (as well as many other teams!)
9th place: 17 points (tie) — Taylor Hall [6g+11a in 12 games], Patrick Kane [4g+13a in 10 games]
These ones are impressive because the games played numbers are very low compared to many others on the list. Hall has been a one-man wrecking crew against the Pens over the years (adding more talent like Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev is scary!). It always seems like the Pens no-show games against Chicago and get blown out, and Kane has feasted on them and been a big reason why they get blown out. Luckily that only happens twice a year with the NHL’s schedule.
8th place: 18 points — Alex Ovechkin [12g+6a in 21 games]
Oh you just knew Ovechkin would show his face here. The only shocker is he “only” has 12 games in 21 games against the Pens in the last five seasons. Feels like he always gets one a game. Those 12 goals do represent the most a Pittsburgh opponent has scored against them in the last five seasons, because of course.
6th place: 19 points (tie) — John Carlson [6g+13a in 19 games] and Nikita Kucherov [6g+13a in 15 games]
Carlson has inflicted much pain against the Pens, mostly on Washington’s power play where he is a weapon at the top of their setup that’s often dishing passes to his left to Ovechkin or shooting when the lanes breakdown. Kucherov has emerged as one of the league’s most prolific scorers and hasn’t spared Pittsburgh with his wrath.
4th place: 21 points (tie) — Travis Zajac [6g+15a in 21 games], Jakub Voracek [11g+10a in 20 games]
Zajac is another player who stands out compared to the rest of the list, often feasting on the Pens at a way higher rate than he does against the rest of the league for whatever reason. Voracek has found tons of open space and made it count in plenty of wide-open Pens/Flyers games over the years.
3rd place: 22 points — Claude Giroux [6g+16a in 20 games]
The Flyers’ captain has grabbed the Pens’ butts for many a year and always gets up for the rivalry game as much as he does celebrating Canada day. Both situations end with red lights flashing, but unfortunately for Pittsburgh when it’s on the rink that’s not a good thing.
2nd place: 23 points — T.J. Oshie [11g+12a in 19 games]
Ever since being traded from St. Louis to Washington, Oshie has been an explosive player against the Pens, either in racking up points or making leaping checks into the skulls of his opponents. As an emotional player, Oshie has elevated his game against the Pens like no other, which is worthy of a certain kind of respect to know he’s always bringing his A game.
1st place: 25 points — Nicklas Backstrom [5g+20a in 21 games]
Is this a surprise? It feels like a bit of a surprise. Backstrom has tallied up a ton of assists, dishing out a ton of accurate passes and aided by a recent five-point game against Pittsburgh to push him up to the number one most dangerous opponent the Pens have faced in the last five seasons. It’s pretty fitting since Backstrom flies under the radar in general with his quiet, unassuming yet lethal style, and that’s played out in this statistical outlook as well.
Honorable mentions: Mark Stone and David Pastrnak both have 15 points in just 11 games against Pittsburgh in the last five seasons, and would likely have made the list had they played 18+ games like so many of the mostly divisional rivals we see above that have the benefit of getting many matchups to do damage.
Likewise, Artemi Panarin has nine goals (and 15 points) in just 12 games against the Pens, so it’s definitely not great news for Pittsburgh that the Breadman has remained in the division this offseason when he signed with the Rangers.
And some interesting notes of players who haven’t done that well:
- Newly acquired Alex Galchenyuk has 0 goals (and five assists) in 13 games against Pittsburgh in the last five seasons.
- Jordan Staal only has one goal and two assists against his old mates since 2014 in 16 games. Would have expected that to be higher.
- Joe Thornton only has one goal and one assist against the Pens in the last five years (10 games) which is also really low for a guy with 1,000+ career apples.
- Tom Wilson has but four points [2g+2a] in 18 regular season games against the Pens in the last five years, to go along with 52 PIMs. Maybe the Pens shouldn’t be so worried about him!
- Jeff Skinner only has four goals and two assists in 20 games against the Pens which feels pretty low.
- Steve Stamkos only had four goals against the Pens in the last 12 games. He does have nine assists to give him good overall points, but I would have thought one of the league’s most dangerous snipers to score more goals against Pittsburgh lately. Similarly Evgeny Kuznetsov only has three goals in his last 21 regular season games against the Pens (to go along with 10 assists to also boost his numbers).
Who are the players you dread seeing in the lineup against the Pens or know it’s going to be a tough night facing off against?