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Penguins' Malkin crashing net like no other

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 10:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and assitant coach Tony Granato share a laugh during practice for the Stadium Series game against the Blackhawks Friday , Feb. 28, 2014 in Chicago Il. at Soldier Field

After beginning this season with a flurry of assists but few goals, Evgeni Malkin has picked up the scoring pace.

He notched just 0.25 goals per game in October and November, going a career-high 15 consecutive contests without lighting the lamp at one point, but his scoring average since (0.55 per game) bests his career mark (0.46) and beats out Sidney Crosby (0.52), James Neal (0.52) and Chris Kunitz (0.42) for top honors on the Penguins.

Renowned for his silky-smooth passes, Malkin is taking a more assertive approach with the puck (3.2 shots on goal per game since December) than he did during the season's first two months (2.86). You won't have to look far to find him, either. He's firing those shots in the goalie's face.

Malkin has the shortest average shot distance among NHL players who have scored double-digit goals this season, taking aim fewer than 22 feet away from the net-minder. That's about 15 feet closer than the average shot of Malkin's Olympic teammate and NHL goal leader, Alex Ovechkin, and the overall league average.

Taking aim

Player, team Avg. shot (feet)

Evgeni Malkin, Penguins 21.8

Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks 22.3

John Tavares, Islanders 22.4

Andrew Shaw, Blackhawks 23.5

Tomas Hertl, Sharks 23.6

NHL average 36.4

Source: Behindthenet.ca

No Penguin crashes the net like Malkin, but the club's other top scoring threats also like to make goalies feel claustrophobic. Crosby, Neal and Kunitz take shots closer to the net than the average NHL player.

Player Avg. shot (feet)

Evgeni Malkin 21.8

Sidney Crosby 27.0

Chris Kunitz 29.3

James Neal 33.8

Jussi Jokinen 36.1

Team Avg. 36.0

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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