Despite an obvious powerhouse of snipers and scorers, The Pittsburgh Penguins were unable to find their offense in the first two games of the Finals. Conn Smythe contender Evgeni Malkin was no exception. Now, heading into Game 4 at Mellon Arena, fans and family of the Penguins hope Detroit awakens the sleeping giant sooner than later.
Above: Evgeni Malkin scoring a goal against Detroit
Where oh where has Malkin gone? A 19-point post-season performance is no doubt a formidable accomplishment. But 19 points is all Malkin has managed to steadily maintain over the last three games. Mind you I said steadily maintain. In other words, remain stagnant with.
Here's a guy that was on pace for an absolutely amazing post-season points total. At the rate in which Malkin was scoring, 19 points heading into the finals put him on pace for 25-27 points.
When Crosby got his boo-boo in the latter part of the season, Malkin was a machine. Malkin was asked to carry the team and there was no other way you'd want him to play. Following Crosby's rehabilitation, the two were united again in the playoffs and the chemistry didn't miss a beat (even if used strictly on the power play).
Consider these numbers.
In the month of April, over the course of seven games, Malkin tallied five goals and eight assists for 13 points.
In May, spread over ten games, Geno has mustered up only four goals and two assists for 6 points.
Comparatively speaking, it's amazing to think that he played better point-wise in less games. Maybe the opposition got wind of him; maybe the defensive systems adjusted.
In Game 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings had Malkin's number. Number 71 combined for one shot over two games. I repeat; ONE SHOT over TWO GAMES. He hardly touched the puck without being smothered and was missing wildly on normal dead-shot passes to Sykora/Staal.
Game 3 in Pitt changed a lot. While still held pointless on the night, Malkin quadrupled his shot total and played the puck with a fine mix of control and finesse. Clearly two aspects that Malkin has hardly had issues with in the past, but sure signs of his slump's foreclosure.
Much to the benefit of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby took the game to another level Thursday night with two goals of his own. Consider it a fitting start to the resurgence of the one of the NHL's best offensive teams. If Malkin opts to follow in suit, then both he and Crosby will be running the show on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Keep the faith; he shall rise again.