ShareThis Page

Analysis: Time for Pens to unite Crosby, Malkin

| Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010

ST. LOUIS — Evgeni Malkin is understandably tired of explaining himself.

"I'm a winger," he said again Friday. "That is where I play."

Agreed, except that Malkin wasn't specific enough. He should play with center Sidney Crosby on the Penguins' top line — all the time.

The Penguins shouldn't overthink this. They should simply watch the video from the overtime victory at Nashville on Thursday night.

The footage won't lie.

"(Malkin) had one shift in overtime where it looked like he was tired. We were in our end for about 40 seconds — and then the next thing I'm looking at on the bench is them on a rush, (Malkin) stripping the puck and setting up a couple of more chances for Sid," Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said, shaking his head in disbelief.

At their best, Crosby and Malkin are arguably two of the three best offensive players in the world. Witness their 17 combined points in the past five games and the Penguins' 4-0-1 mark in those contests.

Each would benefit from playing with an elite winger, but neither will if both stay at center because the Penguins are strapped by the salary cap. They have committed $21.4 million annually to Crosby, Malkin and center Jordan Staal; $5 million to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury; and more than $18 million to five defensemen.

The Penguins are good enough to win the Stanley Cup as constructed — especially at full health, which they aren't. They'll be a better Cup bet with Crosby and Malkin on the same line, and they're blessed that Malkin possesses the wiliness and tools to transform into the franchise's best winger since Jaromir Jagr won five scoring titles between 1995 and 2001.

The bullish strength with which Malkin performed at Nashville, shielding the puck offensively and taking it away defensively, was Jagr-esque. Bylsma said the significant time Crosby and Malkin played together in the game was the result of a strategy "to get quality players on the ice (together) more often."

Great plan — he should try it again tonight by skating Crosby and Malkin with Kunitz against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. When Staal returns, his former third-line wingers, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, can join him on the second line.

If that line doesn't strike fear into the heart of opponents — well, so what• The top line should leave defensive pairs weak in the knees.

"We used to try different things — a shadow to one side, basically not allowing them to have the puck. A lot of it was designed to not let them get speed," defenseman Paul Martin said of the strategy his former team, New Jersey, used when Crosby and Malkin were on the ice together. "Part of it is tough, though. It's just accepting that, when they're together, they're going to get chances. You're giving up this but giving them that. There is no real way to stop them from getting opportunities when they're together on the same line."

The only way to stop Crosby and Malkin is for the Penguins to keep them apart.

Additional Information:

Megapowers unite

With Evgeni Malkin now a full-time winger • and since he and Sidney Crosby are white-hot of late, combining for 17 points in the past five games • perhaps the time is right to make them full-time linemates. Here's how they've helped each other during the regular season in their careers:

• Crosby career goals: 189

• Malkin assists on those goals: 56 (29.6 percent)

• Malkin career goals: 146

• Crosby assists on those goals: 60 (41.1 percent)

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.