The dog days of the NHL off-season are here. General managers, players, and coaches are all on vacation, and new moves are few and far between. With two months until training camps begin, it's a great time to look at some of the best moments of the Pittsburgh Penguins season.
5. Jake Guentzel Hits 40 Goals
Jake Guentzel has finished as the Penguin's leading goal scorer in two of the past four seasons, eclipsing the 40-goal mark in both instances. Guentzel enjoyed a career year during the 2021-22 season, scoring 84 points (40-44) in 76 games. The 27-year-old winger earned a spot on the NHL All-Star team for the second time in his career.
Guentzel capped off his best year with the Penguins by leading the team to a 4-0 victory over the Boston Bruins late in the season. He scored his seventh career hat trick, finishing the game with an empty net goal that accounted for goal number 40 on the season.
4. Evan Rodrigues Clinches His First Career Hat Trick
Few players last season had a breakout year like Evan Rodrigues. With the Penguins facing injuries early in the season, Rodrigues stepped up and led the team throughout the early portion of the year. The always adaptable forward scored 30 points in his first 33 games of the season.
On January 2nd, the Penguin's first game back from the extended Christmas break, Rodrigues accomplished something he had never done at the NHL level, score a hat trick. That game against the San Jose Sharks was seemingly out of reach early, with the Penguins building a 6-1 lead after one period.
However, the Sharks climbed back to make it 6-5 early in the third period. Already netting two goals in the game, Rodrigues slammed the door on the Sharks comeback attempt with a powerplay goal to complete his first career hat trick.
3. Kris Letang Caps of A Historical Night for Penguins
Few players have career seasons at 34 years old, but Kris Letang made it look easy. Letang scored 68 points (10-58) last season, and while he would've liked to score more goals, he did manage to pot a pair of overtime winners against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The latter of the two OT winners capped off a historical night for Penguins captain Sidney Crosby which we'll discuss later in this article. In overtime, Letang skated the puck up on the rush, creating a two on one with Crosby closing in on Flyers goalie Carter Hart. Letang looked off Crosby and shuffled the puck passed Hart, clinching the victory for the Pens.
2. Tristan Jarry Shuts Out the Rangers
Last season was a year of redemption for Tristan Jarry. After putting together a pathetic performance in the 2021 playoffs, questions about Jarry's viability as an NHL starting goalie surrounded the 26-year-old netminder. He responded by putting together a tremendous season, finishing with 34 wins, a .919 save percentage, and only allowing 2.42 goals per game.
Jarry also collected four shutouts throughout the season. The most impressive was a 1-0 shutout victory over the New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena. The nationally televised matinee was a battle of attrition between Jarry and Vezina Trophy goalie Igor Shesterkin. In the end, it was a goal by Evgeni Malkin and the heroics of Jarry that won the game for the Penguins. The Penguins netminder saved all 27 shots from the Rangers, including 10 in the final 11 minutes of the game.
1. Sidney Crosby Reaches 500
Scoring 500 goals is an accomplishment that carries a lot of weight in the NHL. Going into last season, only 45 players had ever reached that milestone. Sidney Crosby became the 46th member of that club against the Philadelphia Flyers. Not often does a player achieve a milestone in the perfect way. However, Crosby scoring number 500 on home ice against arguably his most hated rival and assisted by Evgeni Malkin is about as close to a storybook ending as you could get.
Family in the crowd, his two oldest teammates on the ice, and the rest of the team spilling over the bench it is impossible to believe that any moment last season surpassed that. Crosby has a few more milestones within his reach heading into next season as he is eight assists away from 900 in his career. Crosby is also 91 points away from 1,500, which would move him into the top 15 in NHL history.
The 2021-22 season was full of memorable moments and milestones for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here's hoping for more of the same next season.
Make sure you bookmark Inside the Penguins for the latest news, exclusive interviews, breakdowns and so much more!