Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Malkin's Play Has to Improve

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Malkin's Play Has to Improve

Article excerpt

Last season, Evgeni Malkin was the NHL's most valuable player. This season, he would be lucky to finish in the top 10 if the Penguins did their team MVP voting before practice this morning. Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tomas Vokoun, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Paul Martin, Pascal Dupuis, Brooks Orpik and even Kris Letang, who has missed 11 games with injuries, would finish ahead of him.

That has to change if the Penguins are going to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

Malkin has to play a lot better.

There is some good news here. The team MVP voting will not be done today. There still are nine games left before the playoffs, beginning with one Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. Malkin has time to get his game in order. He scored 50 goals last season and won the NHL's scoring title with 109 points. There's no reason he can't get on that kind of tear again. He has that much ability. Other than Crosby, he remains the most talented hockey player in the world.

That's what makes Malkin's lack of production this season so frustrating to watch and so hard to understand. He still is averaging slightly better than a point a game despite being scoreless in the past two matches against the New York Rangers. That's better than anyone on the Penguins but Crosby and Kunitz. But Malkin always is going to be held to a higher standard. He has won not one, but two NHL scoring titles. It seems almost absurd that he has just six goals, the same total as Martin and Matt Cooke and just one more than the much-maligned Tyler Kennedy. It's equally ridiculous that he has more penalty minutes (32) than points (27).

Maybe Malkin is hurt or, at least, not quite right physically. He missed four games in late February and early March with a concussion. He also missed nine games in March with a shoulder injury. Remarkably, the Penguins won all nine, a big part of their 15-game winning streak.

But Malkin has played the past five games. We have to judge him based on what we see. He hasn't been nearly good enough. He scored a goal in his first game back March 28 against the Winnipeg Jets. …

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