Since it’s the Penguins 50th anniversary season, we are taking a look back at some of the biggest moments and players of Penguins’ history.
While often eclipsed by the star power of his older brother in Carolina, Jordan Staal has a much different legacy in Pittsburgh. In fact, he was one of the driving reasons the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
The Penguins drafted Jordan Staal second overall in the 2006 NHL Draft and as an 18-year-old as he had 29 goals in his first season. He finished the 2006-07 season with 42 points. The next year, in 2007-08, the Penguins went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but Staal took a huge step back as he only put up 12 goals and 28 points in all 82 regular season games.
But in 2009, he really found his stride.
He transformed into one of the best third line centers in the NHL, posting 49 points throughout the regular season. His line, which included Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, dominated the Stanley Cup Playoffs, combining for 25 points on their way to an eventual championship victory.
Staal himself had four goals and nine points in the Penguins Stanley Cup run in 2009 and this one was by far the biggest of them all:
The strength that Staal shows with the puck on this goal is truly remarkable. He was matched up against Brian Rafalski, one of Detroit’s best defensemen that year. However, goaltender Chris Osgood was also playing very deep in his net and Staal took full advantage of that. That shorthanded goal helped change the trajectory of the game, without it things could have looked a lot different in that series.
When the Penguins tried for the repeat in the 2009-10 season, Staal was again one of their best players, as he equaled his 49 points from the season prior. But Pittsburgh ran into the wrong goaltender at the wrong time, as Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens simply refused to lose. The Canadiens upset the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs in seven games.
Still, Staal gave it his best shot. He only scored three times during the playoffs that year, but two of the three were against Halak. One of those tallies was particularly important, as it came when Pittsburgh was trying to come back from a 4-0 deficit in what was the final game at Mellon Arena.
Jordan Staal battled some injuries during the 2010-11 season and only put up 30 points. That was also the season when the Penguins made the playoffs without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but ended up losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
His final year in Pittsburgh was the 2011-12 season. The Penguins made it to the playoffs once more, and Staal was a large part of that, putting up a 25-goal regular season effort, still the second-most goals he’s had in a year. Pittsburgh matched up against their cross-state rivals for an intense playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Staal’s biggest moment from that season came when he scored a hat trick in the memorable Game 4 against the Flyers. The Penguins scored ten goals overall:
No team has scored ten goals in an NHL game since then.
The Flyers might’ve taken the series in six games, but Staal’s efforts won’t be forgotten soon.
Now an integral part of a retooled Carolina Hurricanes roster, Jordan Staal has taken several years to replace in Pittsburgh. He may not play in the black-and-gold anymore, but fans still remember him — and his 2009 heroics — fondly.