Malkin concerns puzzle Penguins
As a countryman, friend and local landlord, defenseman Sergei Gonchar has willingly devoted considerable time over the past two seasons talking about - and often for - teammate Evgeni Malkin.
One subject has drawn the ire of Gonchar, who cannot understand a popular theory that Malkin is at his best when captain Sidney Crosby is not around.
"It's just not true," Gonchar said Monday, a day after Malkin pulled within two points of fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, a Washington left wing, in the NHL scoring race by tallying twice and recording two assists in the Penguins' 7-1 victory against Philadelphia on Sunday.
"I don't think it's the right approach ... to say that somebody has to take a back seat or be in the front seat. It's not fair to either guy to say, 'OK, (Crosby) is No. 1 and (Malkin) is No. 2.' It's not going to work that way."
Crosby, the Penguins' captain, will not play tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. He has missed 23 of the past 26 games due to a high right ankle sprain.
The Penguins have gone 13-6-4 without Crosby, the reigning league MVP and scoring champion. They have done so primarily because Malkin, in his second season, has thrust himself into contention for those various honors while assuming Crosby's role as the Penguins' top center.
Malkin has scored 17 goals and recorded 42 points without Crosby - good for 1.83 points per game, compared to 1.12 with Crosby. Malkin has totaled as many multiple-point games this season without Crosby (12) as with him.
Crosby could return to the Penguins' lineup against New Jersey at Mellon Arena on Saturday. Even if he does, all eyes will remain on Malkin, who scored only a goal to go with three assists in three games Crosby played March 4-9 after missing 21 consecutive contests due to his injury.
Gonchar is most vocal among teammates who urge outsiders not to read too much into the difference in Malkin's productivity with and without Crosby.
"They played two games together when Sid came back before 'Geno' had three assists and Sid scored two goals against Washington (March 9)," Gonchar said. "Two games, that's all. It's not fair to judge them based off two games. They were really good in the third game - a game that was tight like a playoff game, too."
Forward Maxime Talbot, a close friend to Crosby and Malkin's traveling roommate, said talk - in the media or among fans - of "a different Malkin when Sid plays" is "insane."
"Look, they are two of the best players in the world, and they play the same position, and they're both dominant," Talbot said. "That's a bad thing?
"This idea that Geno is a better player without Sid - that's just nonsense. It's, like, all of a sudden people are worried about Sid coming back. It's like any team wouldn't want Sid to come back and play with Geno.
"It's not No. 1 and No. 1-A. It's not No. 1 and No. 2. With Geno and Sid, it's Nos. 1 and 1. Throw in (right wing Marian Hossa) and it's Nos. 1 and 1 and 1. We've got a lot of No. 1s. It's not a terrible problem."
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.
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says aching wrist doing better
- Penguins’ Scuderi offers honest assessment of his 2013-14 performance
- Now healthy, Penguins’ Bennett eyes bigger role