Caps' Ovechkin: No worries about Pens' Malkin
ARLINGTON, Va. — Alex Ovechkin usually does something before Evgeni Malkin.
Ovechkin was drafted before Malkin. He was the NHL's top rookie before Malkin. He won a scoring title and MVP before Malkin.
His production tailed off before Malkin, too.
For that reason, Ovechkin is advising Malkin to remember his previous place as one of the NHL's best players.
“Of course, you have to … but you (also) just have to relax and forget about it,” Ovechkin said Wednesday morning after his Washington Capitals practiced for their home game against the Penguins.
A short distance away at Verizon Center, Malkin returned to practice with the Penguins after a taking a maintenance day Tuesday — a career-worst stretch 14 games without a goal on his mind.
Most disconcerting to Penguins coaches, and the reason for Malkin's mandated day off, was his passing up open shots in the offensive zone Monday during a home win over Anaheim.
In fact, coach Dan Bylsma thought Ovechkin's suggestion — basically for Malkin to remember who he was — had “something to it.”
Ovechkin, the NHL co-leader with 17 goals entering Wednesday, said he has not spoken with Malkin about their shared experience of falling from grace. They are not close friends even though in 2004 they were the first pair of Russians selected atop the NHL Entry Draft and will chase gold together at their country's Winter Olympics in February.
Ovechkin stressed he is not worried about — nor should Malkin — the upcoming Games.
However, Malkin said the pressure of those Games, a new contract that soon will make his salary-cap hit the Penguins' highest and four consecutive playoff disappointments are weighing on him.
Mostly, though, there was this:
He had scored only 12 goals in 52 regular-season games since notching 50 on his way to the MVP and a second points title for the 2011-12 campaign.
Malkin did not view the goal-less streak as merely several bad weeks, even though that was a consensus among the Capitals.
“Trust me, we're not thinking about him in terms of scoring or not scoring. We're worried about the player,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said, noting Malkin's 20 points in 21 games before Wednesday. “It's not like he's not doing anything.”
Ovechkin certainly was doing something before Wednesday, with 37 goals in 42 prior games.
Of course, he had produced only 82 goals in 182 previous contests before this return to prominence. Ovechkin won his third MVP last season, but it started with him notching only 12 goals in 25 contests — a 0.48 per-game average compared to his 0.68 rate from 2005-10.
Ovechkin switched from left to right wing last season.
Malkin remains a center, but his longtime Russian rival suggested tuning out everybody other than his Penguins support group and inner circle.
Also, taking on a new perspective would help. That is what Ovechkin did during his depths.
“When you score goals, when you make assists, when you're name is on the scoring list, everybody thinks you're back,” Ovechkin said, adding that “it's more than goals.”
“Tell (Malkin) it gets better,” he added. “He's fine.”