Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
It’s between two players, both left lasting memories with Pens fans.
As 2020 continues to take it’s toll on the Pittsburgh Penguins with the recent trade of Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers, I figured this morning I’d throw a nice change up and take a trip down memory lane.
In case you’re new here or haven’t seen these articles written before this one, this will be the fifth installment of players that wore a particular number that we’ve looked at through the years of the Pittsburgh Penguins existence. We’ve been through number one, three, eight and twenty-five. Today we’ll vote on a pretty interesting, yet hardly worn, number.
To keep up the tradition, here’s the introduction from the first vote from 2017:
There have been many memorable jersey numbers given out in the history of the Penguins franchise. Only two numbers in the Penguins franchise have been retired, No. 21 of Michel Briere, whose life was unfortunately cut short at the young age of 21 when he was involved in a car accident in 1970. No player has ever worn the No. 21 for the Penguins since, and Briere’s jersey was officially retired in January of 2001. The other number retired is of course the No. 66 of former great Penguins player, and current team owner, Mario Lemieux. There are no words necessary to explain the reasoning behind his jersey hanging in the rafters, as he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time. The next number to be retired is most likely going to be Jaromir Jagr’s famous No. 68, which there’s plenty of time to argue one way or the other as Jagr may play until he’s 68 if a team is willing to give him a contract.
According to hockey-reference.com, the Penguins have given out 77 [make that 81 now] out of
9998 possible numbers. Numbers 1- 52 have all been assigned to current or former Penguin players. That brings me to the question, who wore it best?
Only five players have worn the double-five since the Penguins first season in 1967. Larry Murphy was the first from 1991-95 followed by Drake Berehowsky for one game in 1995, and then again in 2003. Berehowsky was traded for Ric Jackman in 2004, who also wore the number – likely because ownership could barely afford a different nameplate those days. Sergei Gonchar donned the number from 2006-10 and only Philip Samuelsson has worn it since for five games in 2014.
Berehowsky and Jackman weren’t completely forgettable, unlike Samuelsson’s time in Pittsburgh, but both hold no water in comparison to Murphy and Gonchar. So instead of comparing all five players, let’s just compare Murphy to Gonchar in their time with the Penguins to decide once and for all, who wore it best?
Larry Murphy, 1991-95
336 GP, 78 G, 223 A, 301 PTS, +102, 213 PIM
- Acquired by Pittsburgh on December 11, 1990 from Minnesota North Stars with Peter Taglianetti for Chris Dahlquist and Jim Johnson.
- Played 74 playoff games with Pittsburgh recording 15 goals, 57 assists, totaling 72 points. Also recorded 73 PIM and a +12 with two game-winning goals.
- Won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. Won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
- Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
- Holds NHL record for points by a rookie defenseman with 76 (16 G, 60A) with LAK in 1980-81.
- Traded to Toronto on July 8, 1995 for Dmitri Mironov and Toronto’s 1995 2nd round pick, which was traded later to NJD.
- His 78 goals are the third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen.
- His 72 playoff points are second most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen, eight points behind Letang’s 80.
- His 15 playoff goals are second most in Penguins history among defensemen, six less than Letang’s 21.
- His +102 is the highest plus/minus among defensemen in Penguins franchise history, +26 more than Ulf Samuelsson in second.
- His .9 pts/gm are third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen, which is .1 more than Gonchar who is fifth after Randy Carlyle’s .81 pts/gm.
- Sits in a three-way tie for franchise best four short-handed goals by defensemen with Kris Letang and Carlyle.
- Second most GWG by defensemen in Penguins franchise history with 12, 12 less than Letang’s 24 and one more than Gonchar’s 11.
- His 1,615 regular season games played by a defenseman were an NHL record when he retired in 2001.
- Ranks fifth all time by defenseman in the NHL with 1,216 career points.
Sergei Gonchar, 2006-10
322 GP, 54 G, 205 A, 259 PTS, -3, 313 PIM
- Signed as a free agent on August 3, 2005.
- Played 60 playoff games with Pittsburgh recording seven goals and 37 assists, totaling 44 points. Also recorded 26 PIM and a +4 with four game-winning goals.
- Won Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.
- Averaged 25:23 TOI in 322 games as a Penguin, which is the highest in franchise history, 1:25 more than Letang. (TOI numbers weren’t tracked in Murphy’s time with Pittsburgh.)
- His 44 playoff power play points are third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen.
- His seven playoff goals are third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen.
- His three playoff game-winning goals are two less than Letang’s franchise record of five by a defenseman.
- His 175 power play points are the third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen.
- His 37 power play goals are third most in Penguins franchise history among defensemen, six less than Letang’s 43.
- Played 2009 Stanley Cup Final with partially torn MCL from knee-on-knee hit from Alex Ovechkin; returned in Game 7 against Washington.
- Scored 500 points from 2000-10, second only to Nicklas Lidstrom’s 550 points (in 92 less games than Lidstrom). Led NHL defenseman in goals in same time frame with 128, nine goals more than Rob Blake (in 35 less games for Gonchar). Lidstrom and Blake are both in the Hall of Fame.
- Led NHL defenseman in 2001-02 with WSH with 26 goals and 59 points, nine more goals than second place.
- Tied for NHL best 18 goals in 2002-03; finished one point behind Al MacInnis with 68 points by a defenseman.
- Finished two points behind Scott Neidermayer in 2006-07 with 67 points for most by a defenseman.
- Hired by Pittsburgh Penguins on October 27, 2015 as developmental coach. Became NHL assistant coach with Pittsburgh on July 12, 2017. Was not resigned after his contract expired on August 12, 2020.