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Goal-starved Penguins need Malkin to let it rip

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 10:51 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
Evgeni Malkin headshot

The NHL's top-scoring team each of the past two seasons, the Penguins are beating goalies scarcely more often than the flailing cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers in November.

Pittsburgh got off to another strong offensive start during the season's first month, ranking eighth in the league with 3.1 goals scored per game. While splitting their first six contests in November, however, the Penguins have netted a mere 2.3 goals per game — tied for 17th and not far above Philly's mark of 1.9.

Entering play Saturday, the Penguins are taking slightly more shots this month (167) than their opponents (155). That pales in comparison to their work in October, when they outshot the competition 423-329.

Perhaps no key player has been more reticent than Evgeni Malkin, who has unleashed just nine shots since Halloween.

Malkin, a former MVP and scoring champ, had scored just three goals while he played with a revolving door of right wingers in James Neal's absence. The last time the 27-year-old lit the lamp was during an Oct. 17 victory over the Flyers. Malkin has been gun-shy all season, testing goalies less than three times per game for the first time during his career:

Marking Malkin

Season Shots/game Shooting%

2006-07 3.1 13.6

2007-08 3.31 17.3

2008-09 3.54 12.1

2009-10 4.0 10.4

2010-11 4.23 8.2

2011-12 4.52 14.7

2012-13 3.19 9.1

2013-14 2.68 5.9

Career Avg. 3.65 12.6

Source: Hockey-Reference.com

With Malkin rarely taking aim, the Penguins are getting outshot during his shifts. The Penguins' puck possession woes on Malkin's line are illuminated by Corsi, a stat comparing the number of shots taken (including goals scored, saves, missed shots and blocks) by a player's team when he's in the game to shots taken by the opposing team during that same time.

Corsi is expressed as a percentage, with 50 meaning the player's team took the same number of shots as the opposition and a number under 50 meaning the player's team was outshot.

The Penguins controlled the puck with Malkin on the ice during the previous four seasons, but they'll have to hope that Neal's return can improve matters in 2013-14:

Season Corsi pct.

2009-10 51.1

2010-11 56.7

2011-12 56.6

2012-13 56.5

2013-14 48.4

Source: Stats.hockeyanalysis.com

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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