Penguins' Evgeni Malkin running wild since Jan. 1
Evgeni Malkin doesn't have a hard time explaining why he's in the middle of such a stellar season.
He credits good health, good linemates and a growing sense of confidence for the prolific path he has cut through the last four months of the NHL schedule.
What's harder to pinpoint is just how many trophies Malkin will be adding to his collection by the time the regular season draws to a close.
Can he lead the league in goals for the first time in his career? Can he lead the league in scoring? Might he earn enough votes to take home MVP honors? All possibilities are on the table with a month left in the season.
"I just want to not think about that. I want to sleep at night," Malkin joked. "It's very important for me. It's a good challenge for me. I challenge myself. I'm ready every game, and I try to help the team win, and I do my best. If I win, it's good. If not, next year."
Here is a look at 10 aspects of Malkin's remarkable season:
There's a really good chance Malkin wins the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Coming into Monday night's games, Malkin had 39 goals, one behind league leaders Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine. In the second half of the season, Malkin has been scoring at a greater rate than either. Malkin has 25 goals in his past 30 games. Laine has 22 in his past 30. Ovechkin has 17.
Winning the Richard would put Malkin in a class by himself.
Malkin is one of five players to win the Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe trophies in his career. The other four are Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Bobby Orr and Patrick Kane. None of those four won the Richard, which was inaugurated in 1999.
There's a really good chance Malkin wins the Art Ross Trophy, too.
Malkin has 87 points, one behind league leader Nikita Kucherov and two ahead of Connor McDavid. Malkin has been scoring at a much more prolific rate since Jan. 1, averaging 1.70 points per game compared to 1.34 for McDavid and 1.10 for Kucherov.
If Malkin wins the Art Ross, it would be an age-defying accomplishment.
Malkin is 31. The last player older than 30 to lead the NHL in scoring in a full season was Lemieux, who did it at 31 in 1996-97.
Malkin has more multipoint games than scoreless games this season.
Malkin has recorded 11 two-point games, 10 three-point games and two four-point games. He has been held off the scoresheet 17 times.
Malkin's defense hasn't suffered at the expense of his scoring.
Malkin is a plus-15. No other forward on the Penguins roster is better than plus-8.
Malkin missed between 13 and 25 games due to injury in each of the previous five seasons. This year, he's missed four.
Pairing up Malkin with speedy left wing Carl Hagelin has been a home run. When the duo is on the ice together at even strength, the Penguins average 3.69 goals per 60 minutes. When Malkin is on the ice without Hagelin, the Penguins average 2.55 goals per 60.
Home games help.
Malkin is having a good season on the road (38 points in 34 games), but he's having a great season at home (49 points in 32 games). The only bigger homer in the league is Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (59 points in 32 games).
Still, Malkin probably won't end up the NHL's all-time leading Russian-born scorer.
With a goal and an assist against Dallas on Sunday night, Malkin (919) passed Pavel Datsyuk (918) for fifth place on the NHL's all-time Russian scoring list. At his current pace, there's a good chance Malkin will pass the current leader, Sergei Fedorov (1,179), before his contract is up in 2022. The problem? Ovechkin has a 188-point lead on Malkin and is still going strong.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.