The 2021-22 Pittsburgh Penguins regular-season points race all came down to Brock McGinn.
In the final minute of regulation of Game 82, Jake Guentzel skated toward the Rangers’ empty net on a two-on-one rush with McGinn. Guentzel and linemate Sidney Crosby both had 84 points. If Guentzel had shot the puck into the empty cage, he would have claimed the sole team lead in points.
Instead, he passed it to McGinn— and McGinn shot it over the crossbar of the empty net.
In the process, McGinn inadvertently made franchise history.
By missing the empty net Friday, McGinn wiped a potential Guentzel assist off the board. That assist would have made Guentzel finish the season with a team-best 85 points, marking the first time since 2003-04 someone other than Crosby or Malkin claimed the team lead in points.
Instead, two players will now share the regular-season production lead for the first time in Penguins history.
Penguins points leaders (2004-2022)
|21-22||Sidney Crosby / Jake Guentzel (84)|
|20-21||Sidney Crosby (62)|
|19-20||Evgeni Malkin (74)|
|18-19||Sidney Crosby (100)|
|17-18||Evgeni Malkin (98)|
|16-17||Sidney Crosby (89)|
|15-16||Sidney Crosby (85)|
|14-15||Sidney Crosby (84)|
|13-14||Sidney Crosby (104)|
|12-14||Sidney Crosby (56)|
|11-12||Evgeni Malkin (109)|
|10-11||Sidney Crosby (66)|
|09-10||Sidney Crosby (109)|
|08-09||Evgeni Malkin (113)|
|07-08||Evgeni Malkin (106)|
|06-07||Sidney Crosby (120)|
|05-06||Sidney Crosby (102)|
Trivia question: From the Penguins’ inaugural 1967-68 campaign through 2020-21, a single player claimed the points lead for each season (excluding the 2004-05 lockout season.)
Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Evgeni Malkin, Syl Apps, Rick Kehoe and Jean Pronovost all led the team in points for multiple seasons.
Here’s a question for you: 12 Penguins players led the team in points for just a single season. How many of the 12 can you name?
Here’s a few hints to help you out:
- One was an assistant coach for the Penguins from 2017 to 2020.
- One was the grandfather the Penguins’ GM.
- One had his grandson— who shares his name— drafted by the Penguins in 2009.
- One was the first Russian/USSR player chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft.
It feels fitting for Guentzel to take this place alongside Crosby on the list of all-time Penguins points leaders. After all, as of 2022, he’s one of just eight players in franchise history to record multiple 40-goal seasons in Pittsburgh.
Here’s head coach Mike Sullivan on Guentzel, as per Pens Inside Scoop:
“I think he’s one of the best goal scorers in the league, and he shows it year in and year out. I think it’s a credit to his competitiveness. It’s a credit to his talent level. It’s a credit to how hard he works to keep his game at such a high level. He’s just a great hockey player, that’s what I think. He’s just a great hockey player.”
“He’s got a high hockey IQ. He’s ultra-competitive for a guy that’s not physically imposing in any way. He’s just not overly big. He plays the game really big. He goes to hard areas where you pay a price to get opportunities to score, and he’s undeterred and he’s relentless in those areas. I think he’s an elite player.”
The rest of the gang on Guentzel, as per Trib Live:
“Jake is such a smart player. He knows where to go. He works hard. Even if he’s a smaller guy, he goes to the tough areas.” —Kris Letang
“For not being the biggest guy, (Guentzel) plays with an edge. He plays the give-and-go game, he’s got a great shot and he finds the net. He’s somebody who can hold onto the puck and make plays himself. He goes to the tough areas.” —Sidney Crosby
What’s more, he is 27, and he’s signed through 2023-24. This might not be the last time we see Guentzel topping the Penguins’ points leaders list.
Trivia answer (hints in bold):
Dick Tarnstrom, Alexei Kovalev, Mark Recchi, Mike Bullard, Doug Shedden, Greg Malone, Pierre Larouche, Ron Schock, Bryan Hextall, Dean Prentice, Ken Schinkel, Andy Bathgate
If you named at least five, you earn the prize of being proud of yourself!