The Pittsburgh Penguins finished fifth in the entire NHL this season, with a 37-16-3 record, and have lots of topics of discussion. Because of this, a fellow THW colleague, Connor Corrigan-Webster, and I have decided to take a look at each award and decide who we think deserves it from this team.
Penguins’ Most Valuable Player
Panagiotis Mavridis: Sidney Crosby
The 33-year-old Crosby showed no signs of slowing down due to age yet, with 24 goals and 62 points in 55 games played, leading the team in points and being a huge presence for Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. He was also key to the team[s success when Evgeni Malkin was out for a large portion of the season due to injuries. He had 1.7 wins above replacement (WAR), and was in Selke Trophy consideration for a majority of the season prior to slowing down, finishing with a modest 1.2 even-strength defensive goals above replacement (EVD_GAR). His leadership was unmatched, and it would be a gift for Penguins fans to see him perform at this level next season.
Connor Corrigan-Webster: Crosby
Crosby had yet another prolific season, recording 62 points in 55 games, which ranked second in the East Division and 10th in the entire NHL. Crosby also continued to show his dominance in the defensive end of the ice, ranking in the 86th percentile of all players with regards to advanced defensive metrics.
Penguins’ Best Defenseman
Panagiotis Mavridis: Kristopher Letang
Letang was great this season, having one of his best campaigns since the Stanley Cup championship runs. His skating massively improved, he continued to quarterback the power play, and also managed 7 goals and 45 points in 55 games played. While his defense was not great, he was still insanely valuable to the Penguins’ offense, and without him, who knows if they would have been a playoff team?
Connor Corrigan-Webster: Letang
New year, same old Letang. His offensive presence from the back end resulted in 45 points through 55 games this season, ranking second in the East Division and fourth in the league among defensemen. He provided stability for an injury-plagued defensive corps, who took huge steps with the leadership of the weathered veteran.
Penguins’ Best Goaltender
Panagiotis Mavridis: Casey DeSmith
If I could put “none” I would. This year was not a great one for Penguins goaltenders, but I opted for DeSmith. It’s not that he played terribly, but he just put up average numbers for a backup goaltender, with a .912 save percentage (SV%) and 3.89 goals saved above expected (GSAx). He didn’t steal any games by any means, and if the team had a legit starting goaltender, he probably would have done better. However, the starter, Tristan Jarry, showed that he was not ready for this role at all, with a .909 SV% and minus-9.13 GSAx. This team is going to need better goaltending next season.
Connor Corrigan-Webster: DeSmith
While DeSmith did not receive the majority of the workload this season, he certainly played the best for the Penguins. He recorded a 3.89 GSAx through 20 games this season, ranking ninth in the NHL among goalies who played 20 or more games. He also recorded a .912 SV% and 2.54 GAA, significantly outperforming his tandem partner in Jarry.
Panagiotis Mavridis: Mike Matheson
When trading fan-favorite Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers in exchange for struggling defenseman Mike Matheson, Penguins fans everywhere were calling for Jim Rutherford’s head. Since then, Matheson has blossomed into a great second-pairing defenseman for the team alongside Cody Ceci.
His offensive prowess and amazing skating have made him valuable for the second power-play unit, and he has kind of taken on the role that Justin Schultz had for this team a couple of years ago. Matheson had 5 goals and 16 points in 44 games along with a 1.1 WAR. If he can round out his defensive game, he will be a problem for opposing teams.
Connor Corrigan-Webster: Jeff Carter
When the Penguins made an unexpected move for long-time Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter at the trade deadline, many saw it as a depth signing for their strong centre position to make a deep push into the playoffs. While the team’s playoff run was cut short, Carter’s scoring bonanza was not. He recorded 11 points in 14 games with the Penguins at the end of the regular season and led the Penguins forwards in the postseason in points with five.
Obviously, the Penguins aren’t happy with the way the season ended, however, there are a lot of positives from this campaign, as many players had fantastic seasons. It will be interesting to see if these players can continue these performances onto next year.