Playoffs a chance for Penguins' Malkin to start over
Evgeni Malkin delivered a message Tuesday.
“I want to show my best game,” he said on the eve of his sixth Stanley Cup playoffs opener, “because this year was not great (for) me, but I have a chance to play better.”
The Penguins play the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series.
They may begin without captain Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), but his absence could be offset by the return to MVP form by their other superstar center — the one who was their best player when they won the Cup in 2009.
As the Penguins' practice at Southpointe wound down Tuesday, Malkin remained on the ice, positioned in the circle to the left of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
As other teammates fired upon Fleury, Malkin practiced his shot without a puck. He slowly simulated the motion, paying special attention to his backswing and the angle with which his curved stick blade sliced the air on his follow-through.
He did that at least three times before taking a round of five shots. None missed the net, one was stopped and three cleanly beat Fleury low and to the short side.
Not satisfied, Malkin circled twice before repeating the process — to similar results, a few rising pucks besting Fleury to the blocker side on the next round of five shots.
This continued for about 10 minutes, and at no point did Malkin's ailing left shoulder alter the speed or accuracy of his shot.
“No, Geno looked good,” Fleury said. “Like Geno, you know?”
Malkin appeared comfortable, a noticeable difference from frustration that nearly consumed him during a trying regular season. He played in only 31 games, scored just nine goals and produced merely 31 points.
That from the player who posted 11 goals and 23 points in March last season, which ended with him atop the NHL scoring table for a second time and Malkin finally winning the MVP.
A concussion and damaged left shoulder, which he said recently was weakening his shot, soured him during the shortened NHL season, but Malkin — for reasons he cannot understand — was not himself before the injuries.
He does not want to blame what proved to be an emotionally and physically taxing stint in the Kontinental Hockey League, where Malkin spent the NHL lockout playing for his Russian hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He did not enjoy the attention, two-hour practices or postgame flights that returned to Magnitogorsk at or after 7 a.m.
Malkin has offered none of these reasons as excuses for his below-standard performance with the Penguins. Still, only during his most recent return to the Penguins' lineup was his skating stride powerful, his physicality existent and his temper under control.
Malkin was not called for a penalty over those final three games. He had racked-up 36 penalty minutes in 27 prior games — a trend that carried over from his time in the KHL.
He has had the look — especially last week, right winger Jarome Iginla said — of a prize fighter trying to ratchet up his training before a championship bout.
Perhaps that is because Malkin has not shaken off the first-round knockout by Philadelphia last season. He scored only three goals and produced just eight points in six games.
He has called that loss the worst of his hockey life.
“I think (about it) a lot,” he said.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo hopes to give team physical edge
- Penguins forward Megna’s skill set might be perfect fit
- Inside the glass: Penguins’ Martin, Ehrhoff look comfortable together
- Inside the glass: Sutter takes puck to face
- Penguins’ Rutherford hopes to raise Cup again
- Penguins notebook: Crosby sits, could be out ‘couple days’
- Penguins’ new 3rd jersey similar to early 1990s version
- Penguins notebook: Martin not concerned about expiring contract
- Penguins notebook: Hornqvist, Spaling will lead by example
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Finally healthy, Letang looking to make his presence felt as a leader