Blog Entry

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 2:18 pm
 
malkinBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin is back, and right now it looks as if the Pittsburgh Penguins are his team.

When Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup last month the discussion immediately focussed on whether or not he could win the NHL's scoring title, despite missing the first 20-plus games of the season. As it turns out, Malkin is the Penguins forward we should have been looking at all along.

Thanks to his three-assist performance during a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, which came after a five-point destruction of the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, Malkin moved into a tie for the top spot in the NHL scoring race with 39 points, catching Toronto's Phil Kessel, despite missing six games of his own.

Right now there isn't a more dangerous offensive player in the league, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Penguins.

For the second year in a row the Pittsburgh roster has been crushed by injuries and on any given night has had some combination of Crosby, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, among many others, sidelined due to various ailments and injuries. Even with all of that, the team has a continued to pile up wins and stay near the top of the conference standings and have the look of a top Stanley Cup contender. Head coach Dan Bylsma certainly deserves a lot of credit for that, as does the Penguins front office, led by general manager Ray Shero, for having the type of organizational depth that allows the team to handle so many injuries to so many key players.

But it also doesn't hurt to have a player like Malkin, one of the most talented and skilled players in the world, that is always capable of taking over a game. And that's exactly what he's been doing for the Penguins this year. For much of this season he's been playing on a line with James Neal and free agent acquisition Steve Sullivan. When the Penguins acquired Neal last season it was done so under the assumption that he would eventually be the goal-scoring winger the Penguins have long been searching for to put alongside Crosby. But with Crosby missing so much time due to injury, Neal has found a home on Malkin's line, and along with Sullivan, have formed a trio that has been Pittsburgh's best on a nightly basis.

"I thought his line in particular, I know Geno is the big guy on that line, but their line played very well in the first," said Bylsma after Tuesday's game. "They attacked in every chance they got over the boards at 5-on-5, and on the power play. They were putting pucks behind and playing in the offensive zone and on the attack."

A couple of years ago Malkin was one of the players consistently mentioned in the "best player in the world" discussion, along with Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He won the scoring title during the 2008-09 season and then followed it up with a Conn Smythe performance in the postseason as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

But over the past two seasons his production dropped a bit, perhaps due to lingering injuries, and then he missed the last half of the 2010-11 campaign, as well as the playoffs, due to a knee injury that he suffered when Buffalo's Tyler Myers awkwardly fell on his leg during a game last January. Because Malkin has always played second chair in Pittsburgh to Crosby, the face of the franchise, his name has always been the one that's been brought up in absurd trade rumors and baseless speculation for a wide range of reasons (I've brought this up before, but just google "Evgeni Malkin Trade" and start reading), including but not always limited to salary cap concerns, the need to acquire a goal-scoring winger, and, well, pretty much anything that anybody could throw against the wall in the hopes that it would stick. It never did, and for good reason.

Even though Malkin is the "No. 2" center in Pittsburgh (it's probably more of a 1A and 1B deal) when the team is at 100 percent, he has always had a knack for elevating his game when Crosby is out of the lineup. He did it during the 2007-08 season when Crosby missed extended time due to an ankle injury that came after he fell into the boards, and he's doing it again this season. On a per-game average he's actually scoring at a higher rate right now than he was during the '08-09 season when he won his Art Ross Trophy.

 "Geno has been a force offensively," said Bylsma on Tuesday. "But he's also a guy we're counting on to play against other teams top lines right now, and he's been good at both ends of the rink. He's been powerful and making plays and driving. He's going to have probably 10 scoring chances again with how he's dominating and how he's playing."

Photo: Getty Images

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Comments

Since: Dec 24, 2011
Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:34 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

Well, darkside915, aren't you just the classiest poster here?  Calling elite hockey players names and making up fairy tales, not to mention being downright disgusting talking about classless sex acts.  Why don't you try cleaning up your own act before you knock someone else's?



Since: Jun 19, 2011
Posted on: December 24, 2011 6:45 am
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

First of all to just arbitrarily remove defensemen and goalies from the discussion of best players in hockey is egregious. So anyone picking only forwards should probably not post about such a topic anymore. Malkin is great, but to his benefit in this argument... he absolutely has to be.  Without Crosby in the lineup he is the anchor of that team so i think throwing him into the category of best in the league is sccurate.  I think right now we have to remove Crosby from this discussion, especially since his career is in jeopardy. Lets look at this in the right fashion, you have to think of players that are two-way minded hockey players. Right now in the league you have to think of players like Lidstrom, Chara, for defense... and Howard, Lundqvist, for goalies... Ovechkin has seriously dropped off and not in a fashion that is benefitting his team. Giroux, is having a great season but i dont know if id lump him into best in the league just yet... he does have a little help from that Jagr fellow.  Now we have Stamkos too, leaving players like these guys off of the list is absurd. We continually overlook a Pavel Datsyuk, and the Sedins... as well as Kessel. This argument is too wide-open and everyone has different opinions, i can make a case where someone from the 2nd line on a random team can be much more valuable than a stamkos like players because of the menial tasks he would do to win, where stamkos continually misses those things in his game. 



Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: December 24, 2011 3:19 am
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

.toews does everything,as does hossa and patrice,while giroux and malkin have made up for there teams losing star players.i give early nod to toews for m.v.p.
toews, hossa and patrice do everything, but giroux doesn't?  no wonder you picked toews, because you think G doesn't do everything...when he does.



Since: May 28, 2007
Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:04 am
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

top 5 players in hocky right now.toews,giroux,hossa,bergeron,malkin.all 5 have been beasts all year.toews does everything,as does hossa and patrice,while giroux and malkin have made up for there teams losing star players.i give early nod to toews for m.v.p.  time to give patrice some notoriety,he's a great 2way forward.



Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:48 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

And your evidence was that in your opinion he skates back into the defensive zone quickly

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Yes, thats one of his attributes, another he is a very physical too, ........hey why don't you tell Bylsma how to use Malkin?...I mean you have so much insight.



Since: Apr 21, 2009
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:26 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

meh. only a matter of time before he belly aches about something hurting.



Since: Oct 4, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:12 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

I only said he was a good 2 way player
And your evidence was that in your opinion he skates back into the defensive zone quickly? Jesus, at least originally it looked like you made an absurd claim with no justification. No you make a ridiculous claim with an even more ridiculous justification for it. 

 and Malkin is always in the game when its on the line, but you being the expert on Penguin hockey knows more I guess, and Malkin like Hossa makes there best defensive plays on the back check, using that make up speed which you seem to think matters little.
When did I say he isn't in the game when it is on the line? Although if it is on the line and you are down a man then.... no he isn't. 

 And it really isn't an issue of who you follow. Dan Byslma shelters Evgeni Malkin and does not make him play in the defensive zone very frequently. He starts him in the offensive zone 62% of the time because he is good offensively and average at best defensively. 



Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: December 23, 2011 4:13 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

First of all, I never said he wasn't any good defensively. I said he wasn't one of the best 2 way players(as you claimed) BECAUSE HE ISN'T

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I don't think you can process  , I only said he was a good 2 way player ......and Malkin is always in the game when its on the line, but you being the expert on Penguin hockey knows more I guess, and Malkin like Hossa makes there best defensive plays on the back check, using that make up speed which you seem to think matters little.



Since: Oct 4, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 3:45 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

So if u aren't on the PK you aren't  any good  defensively?.....he also has incredible make up speed, so he can start where ever he pleases most of the time.
You very clearly are completely unable to process what I just wrote. 

First of all, I never said he wasn't any good defensively. I said he wasn't one of the best 2 way players(as you claimed) BECAUSE HE ISN'T.  

If you aren't playing any PK time you aren't one of the best 2 way players in hockey, it's really pretty damn simple. As far as the zone starts, he gets sheltered minutes from his coaches because he's not a great defensive player. He can start wherever he pleases because he is fast? What is he going to skate into the defensive zone when his coach sends him out for a draw in the offensive zone? I have no idea where you were even going with that, it was utterly irrelevant to the point you were addressing. 

Kesler, Datsyuk, Zeeteberg, Giroux, Carter, CROSBY, etc are guys who are legitimate examples of 2 way players.

Malkin gets sheltered minutes, doesn't play on the PK and can't win a faceoff to save his life. He is an elite talent, and defense is not his strength and that is ok. He's awesome, but he is not a 2 way player. 



Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: December 23, 2011 3:29 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

No he isn't. He's not terrible, might even be decent now but he is not a 2 way player. He starts in the offensive zone over 60 percent of the time and doesn't play the PK.

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So if u aren't on the PK you aren't  any good  defensively?.....he also has incredible make up speed, so he can start where ever he pleases most of the time.


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