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To the surprise of no one, the Penguins are the NHL’s most injured team of the last decade

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The Penguins deal with a lot of injuries over the years

NHL: MAR 16 Bruins at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Would you believe the Penguins are the second most injured team in the NHL in the past decade and have dealt with the injuries better than anyone? Of course you should!

The Penguins’ have been a painful comedy of errors over the years. In a sad, twisted way, it’s almost baked into the franchise’s DNA. Mario Lemieux only played 915 career NHL games, that’s barely the equivalent of 11 full seasons.

But even before Mario, in the team’s initial season they actually had a live penguin named Pete. Poor Pete was dead within 13 months of the team’s existence before the team eventually moved onto a more stable mascot in the form of Iceburgh. Luckily, Iceburgh remains in good health (even though his likeness was once hijacked by movie villains!)

Anyways, back on the ice injuries have been a fact of life for the Penguins. Quietly, once oft-injured stars like Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby have demonstrated pretty good durability in the second acts of their careers (aside from a hernia surgery for Sid in 2019). Evgeni Malkin hasn’t been so lucky, missing significant time in of eight of the last nine seasons, including this year where he was playing in the playoffs on a torn MCL that required surgery.

This season was a real farce — early in the season it was the defense that got hit by a pile of injuries, all basically at the same time. Just look at this depth chart for what ended up as a 3-1 loss on February 1st and required rookie P.O Joseph to play 26 minutes and John Marino logging 30:30 of a regulation game (lol)

By mid-season it was the forward group that was decimated with five of the team’s top nine forwards out at one point, including centers Malkin and Teddy Blueger gone. Add in Jason Zucker and Brandon Tanev and we get to this lovely lineup on 3/20 of the Crosby line, Jared McCann playing center with Evan Rodrigues in a top-six role and two lines of replacement level forwards. Whoopee! (The Pens won 3-1 thanks to two point nights from Crosby and Jake Guentzel).

By the last game of the regular season, it was the goalie’s turn with Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith both injured and Maxime Lagace stepping in the net to complete the rotating positional avalanche of injuries.

Very fortunately though, in the midst of the global pandemic, the COVID virus didn’t really strike the Pens. Crosby and Letang were held out briefly for false positives. Pittsburgh played against teams that had some cases prior to discovery (like the infamous Capitals superfecta) but managed to largely avoid contracting the virus that plagued the world. Go figure.

And 2020-21 was just one year. Who can forget Sidney Crosby and the mumps? Or James Neal pulling a muscle playing wiffle ball while on the ice in practice? Or Beau Bennett injuring himself while celebrating a goal? Or Evgeni Malkin allegedly missing time due to getting sunburned in Florida (even if that is a good story, but not actually true).

We have fun with those instances, and hey, that are all fun and games compared to Olli Maatta being diagnosed with thyroid cancer or Crosby’s neck/concussion issues or Letang having a stroke in the prime of his life, let alone all the very real aches and pains that the game has dished Pittsburgh’s way over the years.

If you can find a way to get hurt, the Pens probably have. Then again, since 2010-11, no team has more wins and no team has more wins or more points than Pittsburgh.

Resilience, adversity, gutting it out in tough spots, the Pens have done it all and pulled through anyways.

RIP Pete.