Pittsburgh Penguins history: Revisiting powerful seasons

Aside from the chronic injury issue that has plagued the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, their struggles on the power play have been trending towards the established franchise marks for lowest conversion percentages with the extra attacker.

This is part two of a four-part series focused on the Pittsburgh Penguins special teams. Part one was centered on the seasons where the Penguins set franchise marks for lowest conversion rates on the power-play.

Before we shift our focus to the penalty kill, here is a look at five of the most productive seasons in franchise history for Pittsburgh with the extra attacker. First, the particulars. The research focused on seasons from1977-78 to 2018-19, and the numbers in brackets reflect where the team finished in league standings and on the rare occasion the total number of occurrences.

Early Exile

5) 2018-19

The 2018-19 season didn’t end well for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team finished with a record of 44-26-12 and claimed third place in the Metro Division with 100 points. Things quickly came unglued for the team in their first-round encounter with the New York Islanders, who completed a clean sweep and exiled the Penguins in four games.

The power-play functioned at a rate of 24.6% (5th) and scored 56 goals (7th) on their 228 power-play opportunities. Their 56 goals with the extra-attacker represented 21% of the 273 (6th) team’s total goals, on the season.

However, the efficiency of the power-play came at a steep cost as Pittsburgh surrendered15 (1st) short-handed goals against. Phil Kessel lead all Penguins scorers with 36 points (12g, 24a), followed by Sidney Crosby with 29 points (12g, 17a), Evgeni Malkin with 26 points (9g, 17a), Kris Letang with 19 points (2g, 17a) and Patric Hornqvist with 12 points (6 g, 6a).

4) 2012-13

In a strike-shortened season, the Penguins finished with a record of 36-12-0, and claimed first place in the Atlantic Divison and second overall in the NHL.

Pittsburgh only lost three games on route to their Eastern Conference Finals showdown vs. Boston Bruins, but succumbed to a red-hot goaltender and stifling defensive core that jettisoned Pittsburgh in four straight games. The Penguins power-play operated at a rate of 24.7% (2nd) and scored 42 goals (3rd) on 170 opportunities (6th).

The Penguins potted a league-high 162 goals,35 more goals than the league average of 127. Special teams goals represented 26% of the team’s goal output.

Malkin led the team with 18 points (4g, 14a). He slightly outpaced Crosby, who had 17 points (3g, 14a) in special teams scoring. Chris Kunitz had 16 points (9g, 7a), James Neal had 16 points (9g, 7a), and Letang with 13 points (1g, 12a) falling not far behind.

Darkest Before the Dawn

3) 1981-82

Despite finishing the season with a losing record 31-36-1 (fourth in Patrick Division) the Penguins had a golden chance to knock off the back-to-back Champions Islanders in game five of their first-round series.

The Penguins allowed two late goals in the third period to send the game into overtime, where Jon Tonelli played the hero as he scored the series-winning goal 6:19 into the extra frame.

The power-play functioned at a rate of 24.5% (8th) and scored 99 goals (1st) on their 404 opportunities (2nd). The 99 goals with the extra attacker represented 31% of the team’s offense

Pittsburgh also surrendered 14 short-handed goals, good for second-most in the league.

Rick Kehoe collected 50 points (17g, 33a) on the power-play, with Pat Boutette with 40 points (14g, 26a), Paul Gardner with 39 points (21g, 18a), Randy Carlyle with 37 points (7g, 30a), and Mike Bullard with 19 points (10g, 9a) rounding out the top five scorers.

2) 1995-96

Mario Lemieux’s return to the NHL propelled the Penguins to one of their most successful seasons in team history. Pittsburgh finished with a record of 49-24-1 and Lemieux racked up 161 points (69g, 92a) in 70 games played, it was the third-highest point total of his career.

Pittsburgh also came within one goal of reaching their third Stanley Cup final, but the underdog  Florida Panthers channeled the 1993 New York Islanders and bested the Penguins in overtime of game seven of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Penguins were ranked first in power-play (25.95%), power-play goals (109) and total goals (362). The team surrendered 12 short-handed goals against (9th)and were offered 420 powerplay opportunities (11th)

Lemieux finished with 79 points (31g, 48a),  Ron Francis with 54 points (12g, 42a), and Jaromir Jagr with 51 points (20g, 31a). Tomas Sandstrom had 30 points (17g, 13a) and Petr Nedved had 20 points (8g, 12a) to round out the most proficient special team scorers.

Third Time Not a Charm

1) 2017-18

With the Franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup victory secured, the Penguins entered the 2017-18 campaign looking to become the first team since the Islanders (1979-1982) to capture three consecutive titles. A twist of fate in the second round of the playoffs saw the rival Washington Capitals flip the script, and vanquish Pittsburgh in six games on route to their first championship.

Pittsburgh finished the season ranked first in power-play conversions (26.15%) and power-play goals (68) and 8th in power-play opportunities (260). The team also surrendered three shorthanded goals against (29th)

Two penalty shots were awarded to the Penguins during the course of the regular season, with Tom Kuhnhackl (Dec.1, 2017 vs. Buffalo Sabres) and Derick Brassard (Mar. 23, 2018 vs. Montreal Canadiens) taking the opportunities. Kuhnhackl’s attempt was the only one that resulted in a goal.

Next: Every Team's Greatest Player Of All-Time

Want your voice heard? Join the Puck Prose team!

Write for us!

Kessel led the Penguins with 42 points (12g, 30a) on the power-play, with Crosby (9g, 29a) and Malkin (14g, 24a) tied with 38 points each. Hornqvist had 22 points (15g, 7a) and Letang had 20 points (4g, 16a) to round out the top five.

Load Comments