It’s countdown season and so far there have been plenty of outstanding lists from the contributors here at The Hockey Writers over the past two weeks. After watching all the Penguins games this season I wanted to compromise a list that was not only a reflection of the year that was, but also the year that almost was. If you are like me, sometimes those close goals tend to stick with you just a little longer than the successful goals. Therefore here is part one of my list of the top 14 goals that almost were in the Penguins 2014-15 season. These eight “oh so close” moments all come from games that the Penguins won. The rest of the list, the top six, will appear tomorrow and will include those attempts that might have added a few more wins to the Penguins already outstanding start to the 2014-15 season.
14. Steve Downie vs. Anaheim Ducks (October 9)
This could have been the Penguins first goal of the 2014-15 season. After winning a faceoff in the Anaheim zone Penguins Marcel Goc put the puck on the net and Steve Downie showed early on how he will contribute to the Penguins this season. Downie set up shop in front of the net and nearly netted a backhand to open the scoring for the Penguins this season. However, it was Patric Hornqvist who scored the first goal of the Penguins season, just 60 seconds later.
13. Paul Martin vs. Anaheim Ducks (October 9)
At this point the Penguins were already up 3-1 and on the powerplay. Martin lingered on the far side of this powerplay for roughly 13 seconds and watching him you just knew he was going to get a great shot if the puck came back to him. He did get a great opportunity, but John Gibson found a way to get back just in time to make an amazing save. This goal would have put the Penguins up 4-1, but instead just 90 seconds later Anaheim scored to make it 3-2.
12. Blake Comeau, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter vs. New York Islanders (October 18)
Going into this game the Islanders were 4-0-0 and at the top of the Metropolitan Division. Sure it was early in the season, but Penguins fans wanted a convincing win to prove that they were the top dogs in the division. However, the Islanders scored within the first six minutes of the game and the Penguins did not look great, and then there was this break. Lines were changing and Blake Comeau lofted the puck towards Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak and the puck took a “Buckner bounce.” Malkin appeared to be Johnny-on-the-spot as the puck bounced off Halak and rested just in time for Malkin to take a shot. Blocked! And so was the rebound by Brandon Sutter. This goal would have tied the game at one and appeared to be just one more of those stereotypical “what if” goals.
11. Sidney Crosby vs. Winnipeg Jets (November 6)
The game was tough, tenacious and tied at three with just under four minutes left to play. Sidney Crosby got the pass on the powerplay and looked to set up Chris Kunitz when Winnipeg Defenseman Toby Enstrom set off a chain reaction with his deflection of Crosby’s pass. This “pinball shot” almost found a home in the net which would have given the Pens a 4-3 win in regulation. Instead they won in the SO with Crosby scoring the game winner.
10. Evgeni Malkin vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (November 14)
Pascal Dupuis had just scored his first of two goals in the game. Evgeni Malkin forced the turnover at the blue line, passed it to Chris Kunitz who quickly sent it back to Malkin who blasted a shot at Jonathan Bernier only to be denied with an amazing glove save. This would have quickly put the Penguins up 2-0, but as just mentioned the Penguins second goal came fifteen seconds into the 3rd period when Dupuis scored his last goal, and point, before being placed on the IR with a blood clot in his lung.
9. Sidney Crosby vs. Boston Bruins (November 24)
With the game tied at two and coming off a tough weekend against the Islanders, the Penguins needed a win against the Bruins and who better to provide the go ahead goal than Sidney Crosby. It looked like he might do just that on this rush, but Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask came up with an amazing save. Crosby would not provide the game winner that night, that role was left for Evgeni Malkin who netted the game winner just 32 seconds into OT.
8. Chris Kunitz and Blake Comeau vs. Carolina Hurricanes (November 29)
Coming off a relatively shocking 4-2 loss the night before the Penguins hoped to prove their dominance the next night and were already up 2-1 in 1st period. This great attempt by Chris Kunitz and the “oh so close” put back by Blake Comeau would have put them up 3-1 by the end of the period. The got their revenge, but this goal would have been nice.
7. Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin vs. Florida Panthers (December 20)
First, if you watched this game you were a happy hockey fan. There were great goals, fights and tough play. It was all you ask for in a hockey game and if you watched this play live you probably said “are you kidding me?!” Chris Kunitz came in on a surprising break and put a backhand off the post, only to be followed up by Evgeni Malkin putting the next shot off the post also. The Penguins were already up 2-1 in the 1st period, but this was a tough a matchup and watching the game you got the impression that this one could have cost the Penguins later, but luckily for them it didn’t.
These are eight of the top fourteen almost goals of the 2014-15 season. The rest of the list will come tomorrow and remember that all of these are from games the Penguins won. Feel free to share any “goals that almost were” from the Penguins WINS this season below. Let’s leave the almost goals in losses for New Years’ Eve!