In Wednesday night’s home game Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin rocketed a wrister over Pekka Rinne’s glove hand and ultimately chased the netminder. That goal was Malkin’s ninth of these playoffs and honestly his flashiest.
No doubt we have all seen Malkin score some incredible highlight reel goals. For example a no-look-top shelf-spin-o-rama-backhand or razzle dazzled forehand-backhand while falling down. But that’s not something we’ve seen from the Penguins assistant captain this post season. What we have seen is Malkin quietly rack up 26 points in 23 games as the playoffs scoring leader. Quietly the Penguins’ center has made his case for the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, should the Penguins closeout the Predators with two more wins.
Malkin has mostly been playing with Phil Kessel on his wing. While the other side, has been a revolving door of wingers (Kunitz, Wilson, Guentzel, Hornqvist, Rust). Phil Kessel has only seven goals while Kunitz, Wilson, Hornqvist, and Rust have only combined for 12 goals. Guentzel only being on his wing briefly also has very few points while playing alongside Malkin. This poses the question, where is Evgeni Malkin getting all of these points? Fact is Malkin’s dominance in all three zones has made whoever is on the ice with him better.
Is Malkin the top choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy, should the Penguins win? The answer is absolutely! When Crosby was dealing with concussion symptoms during the Washington series, Malkin stepped up as he always does. While only producing one assist on the game winning goal, Malkin played 20+ hard minutes and winning 76% of his faceoffs. On top of that he dominated in the puck possession game. Malkin put the team on his back as did the other locker room leader, and if he was still playing, a close second Conn Smythe Trophy candidate, Marc-Andre Fluery.
But again, this scenario only works if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. For that to happen, Malkin will have to elevate his game once again, unlike games three and four.
Malkin Completely Contained in Nashville
The Pittsburgh Penguins only scored two goals in their two previous games in Nashville. while Malkin did not factor in on any of those goals. Even worse, Malkin was a -3 with three shots on goal in two games, while winning an average of just over 39% of the faceoffs. When compared to the rest of his playoff stats, it is clear that Evgeni Malkin is an important factor in this series, for the Penguins to repeat as champions. The Penguins have had a few days rest and Malkin did not partake in Thursday’s optional morning skate. This will hopefully give Malkin the energy he needs to help give the Penguins a 3-2 series lead.
Malkin Makes Promise and Delivers
Evgeni Malkin told the media days before game five that Phil Kessel would score. He also exclaimed the he and his teammates would play better than their performance in Nashville. Malkin either has a crystal ball or can predict the future because the Penguins leader was right on all accounts. Malkin lead the team in hits with five, scored a goal, added an assist, and mixed it up with numerous Predators in defense of his teammates. His teammates played exceptional from top to bottom which included Phil Kessel scoring and adding two assists. When Malkin says it’s so, everyone should believe. Leadership, playoffs leading scorer, predictor of the future, if that’s not Conn Smythe worthy then I don’t know what is.
Should Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins win one more game and repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, the likely-hood of the Conn Smythe Trophy being awarded to Malkin, should be eminent. It takes 16 wins to become Stanley Cup Champions and Penguins need one more. No doubt it will take another All-Star effort by Malkin and his teammates to make it happen.