Malkin focused on Stanley Cup

| Friday, May 1, 2009

Evgeni Malkin had a trophy on his mind on Thursday, but it wasn't the Hart Trophy.

Named on Wednesday as a finalist for the NHL's MVP award, Malkin remained focused on the Stanley Cup and the upcoming series against the Capitals the Penguins must survive to continue pursuing it.

"I think it's good, it's a good season," Malkin said. "But I'm not thinking about this because we play Washington now."

Malkin has been joined as a finalist for the Hart by fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit.

"It's good for the national team," Malkin said.

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, another Russian, was happy his teammate was recognized as a finalist and happy for his countrymen.

"I believe (Malkin) deserves it," Gonchar said. "He's playing better every year.

"Three of them (Russians) - I was surprised a bit. I've never seen it before. I'm very proud for Russia, and I'm sure a lot of people back home are very proud."

OK with Ovechkin

The Penguins have no problem with Ovechkin's flamboyance, which includes elaborate goal celebrations that might rival what Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco comes up with after scoring touchdowns.

"You go back to the 1970s with (former Minnesota North Stars winger) Bill Goldsworthy, the 'Goldy Shuffle,' way back when," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "No one used to really see that. It was the flair for the dramatic. Now, Ovechkin takes it to the next level. Some people like it, some people don't.

"He scores goals, he gets excited, that's how he plays. Hopefully, we'll put ourselves in a position where we don't have to deal with it. But he's such a great player, what are you going to do• He's exciting."

And he's got game.

"When he starts running around, he gets a charge going, and I think a few times it should be a penalty (for charging), but they won't give him a penalty if it's Ovechkin," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "Other than that, he's a superstar player and he plays hard every game."

Captain 'Crazy'

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on captain Sidney Crosby: "We joke around about how crazy he is when it comes to being competitive."

Stay the course

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma identified the ability of his star players to resist the temptation to try and outduel the Capitals' star players as a critical element for success in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"The tendency is to feel like they need to make a special play to make a difference in the series," Bylsma said.

He cited the Penguins' rally from a 3-0 deficit to win Game 6 of the Philadelphia series as an example of the approach he's after.

"Regardless of the score, regardless of the power play scoring or not scoring, we didn't get frustrated and think we had to do it with one play," Bylsma said. "We stuck with the gameplan. It was line after line doing it the right way.

"That's gotta be the focus for our team. We play a certain way. We know that's the way we need to play to have success. It doesn't matter if it's Max Talbot doing it. It doesn't matter if it's Gonchar. It doesn't matter if it's Crosby.

"We have to play a certain way. It's not going to come down to our star players playing better than their star players."


1 -- Shorthanded goals scored in the postseason by the Capitals' Matt Bradley, one of two such goals in the NHL playoffs.

1 -- Shorthanded goals allowed in the postseason by the Penguins (to Philadelphia's Simon Gagne), one of two such goals in the NHL playoffs.

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