We started off the 00's with a super high, Buries It returning to the ice after a 3 and a half year retirement. We endured some hard times (2003, woof) and we end the decade on another high as Stanley Cup Champs. I've been reading a lot about this last decade and decided to share some of my top players and games.
MY Top Ten Players Of The Last Decade:
10: Jaromir Jagr
-Yea, he was kind of a dick for some of the things he said, but he is a pretty sweet player and one of the Pens all time greats. Technically had only one full season here in the decade, but it was a 52 goal, 121 point season. That gets him on the list.
9: Ryan Malone
-He had a pretty solid rookie season in 03-04 with 22 goals and 43 points. A highlight in an otherwise forgettable season. He put up another 22 goals after the lockout, had a down year in 06-07 and was always in trade rumors. But he broke through as a legit power forward with 27 goals and 51 points in 07-08. He was a Burgh guy, a team guy. We all remember him sitting in the locker room after the Game 6 loss in 2008, head in his arms, the last guy to undress, his last game as a Penguin. He left for Tampa Bay in free agency and the money. But I don't blame him, no way the Pens could pay him a lot and good for him to make some money. I still love Bugsy and appreciate his time as a Pen.
8: Aleksey Morozov
-You gotta love a guy whose nickname was "The Devil Killer". He always seemed to have success against the Devils, and Martin Brodeur jokingly said that he had nightmares of Morozov before he would face the Pens. He never really got a chance to live up to his potential here, but we loved the flashes of brilliance he would show. He was off to a hot start in '02 before breaking his wrist and didn't have much success the following year due to a terrible team. The lockout gave him a chance to go back and play in Russia and he's been there ever since. We can only dream about him playing wing with Bing or Geno...
7: Alexei Kovalev
-Had the best years of his career here, 76 and 95 points. Who can forget the chemistry of the Kovalev/Straka/Lang line? He was a casualty of the Pens financial woes, traded in 2003. He was fast, exciting, and a great puckhandler.
6: Jordan Staal
-Burst onto the NHL scene in 06-07 with 29 goals and 42 points. Broke some NHL rookie records; youngest player to score two shorthanded goals in one game, youngest player to score on a penalty shot, youngest player to score a hat trick, and most short-handed goals by a rookie with seven. Had a bit of a slump in his second year, but was solid in the playoffs. Bounced back with a verey solid year in 2009. Becoming an elite third line center, shorthanded goal scorer, and penalty killer. It can be argued that his shorthanded goal in Game 4 of the 2009 SCF was the most important goal in the playoffs. Big things are in store for this young man.
5: Max Talbot
-They don't call him Superstar for nothing. He may just be your average third/fourth line checking center during the regular season, but he comes alive in the postseason when the spotlight in brightest. His intensity and energy may be unmatched. His amazing game-tying goal in the waning seconds of Game 5 of the '08 SCF, his "shhhh" in Game 6 vs. the hatred Flyers, and his 2 goals in Game 7 of the SCF to win the Cup. A team leader behind the scenes, a great locker room guy, and an Unreal human being.
4: Mario Lemieux
-The greatest player in Pens history, Buries It, retired in 97, but made a grand return late in 2000 and put up 76 points in only 43 games, Unreal. Unfortunetly, he continued to be plagued by injuries but had a very solid 91 points in 67 games in 2002. He finally had to retire for good in 2005 due to a heart condition, but he continued to contribute to the team. Helped negotiate the deal for the new arena. But his biggest act of the decade may have been a couple text messages. After a 5-0 loss to the Wings in the 2009 SCF, Buries It sent out Unreal text messages to inspire the team for Games 6 and 7. Seeing this man lift that Cup again was the most surreal moment of the decade.
3: Marc-Andre Fleury
-Taken number one overall in the NHL Draft in 2003, he has proven why. He started off slow in both 03-04 and 05-06, splitting time between the Pens and WBS. But this finally became his team in 06-07 with solid play and 40 wins. He started off slow the next year and suffered a high ankle sprain that limited him to only 35 games. But he caught fire after the injury and led the team to the playoffs. He tore through the East in the playoffs with a 12-2 record before falling in the SCF. But his first big moment came in Game 5 of that series with a 55 save performance as the Pens won in 3 OT. Last year, he was a major factor in every round, making incredible key saves at key moments. Carter, Lupol, Ovechkin, and Staal all learned this the hard way. But he saved his best for the SCF. After a terrible 5-0 loss, he rebounded with the best two games of his career, winning Game 6 and Game 7 and providing the "Secret Service" save in the last second to preserve the Cup.
2: Evgeni Malkin
-Taken 2nd overall in the NHL Draft. Fled his Russian team to come here for the 06-07 season. Won the Calder as best rookie. Scored a crazy goal against Marty B. In 07-08, he took over when Bing went down, scoring 44 points in the 28 games Crosby was out. Finished with 106 points and runner-up for the Hart. Put up 22 points in the 08 Cup Run. He expanded his domination last year. 113 points for the Art Ross. Exploded in the playoffs, especially against Carolina where he recorded an HT and an amazing backhand goal. Finished with 36 points to get the Conn Smythe along with that Cup. Suck on that Jokevechkin.
1: Sidney Crosby
-Do I even need to explain? Saved the franchise. 100 points in his rookie year. Art Ross, Hart, and Pearson the next. Won the Winter Classic in the shootout. Helped lead the team to the SCF in his third year. And last year...improved on all aspects of the game from faceoffs to goal scoring, went toe to toe with Jokevechkin in the playoffs, and captained the Pens to the Cup. Unreal.
Honorable Mention: Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Mark Recchi.
Dishonorable Mention: Ziggy Palffy, Konstantin Koltsov, Kris Beech.
Best Coach: Disco Dan Bylsma
Worst Coach: Ed Olczyk (Bob Errey could have done better, blindfolded)
Best Year: 2008-09 (duh)
Worst Year: 2003-04 (23 wins, 58 points, dead last in NHL.)
My lovely wife, the Moose, will be following up with her favorite moments of the decade.
Can't wait to see what the next decade will hold.
LETS GO PENS!
-the Blueline Bandit