PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 25: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his first-period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks at Consol Energy Center on September 28 2010 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Is anyone surprised?
Evgeni Malkin has done Pittsburgh proud once again, bringing home both the Hart Memorial and Ted Lindsay awards, along with the Art Ross. Call me biased, but once the nominees for both awards were announced, it was a no brainer who would take home the hardware. Turns out I wasn't off my rocker since Malkin destroyed the voting with 1,473 points to Steven Stamkos' 598 points. And what a great speech he gave after winning the Hart. Not only was off the top of his head, but he dedicated to Sergei Gonchar. I think my glasses fogged up a bit.
The Pens have been a magnet for injuries the last few years and this season was no different. Once again, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins surrendered their best players for bunches of games at a time with the hopes of keeping the Big Pens out of hot water. In the end, it was Malkin (along with Marc-Andre Fleury) who carried the Pens into the playoffs, taking complete command of the ice a la 2008. It sometimes felt like Malkin was scoring every game.
Obviously solely carrying a team doesn't automatically make you League-wide MVP material. What made Malkin's run so impressive was that he put up 12 more points than Stamkos, second in scoring, in seven less games. No one came close to his level.
It hasn't been all fun an games for Malkin, however. He can have an unbelievable season with M-V-P chant-caliber numbers, but his critics will always be there, needling the idea that he should be traded. Unfortunately for Malkin, I don't think he'll ever please all of Pittsburgh.
It's hopeless to argue with the jokes out there who think the Pens are better off without the endearingly awkward Russian. Let them troll and let the media outlets get tens of thousands of hits on their articles.
Malkin has overcome so much to be where he is now. It hasn't been all hat tricks and dipsey-doodles for him since he joined the team, but knowing that strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar will go to Russia to help Malkin train shows where his priorities lie. The Hart isn't the MVP trophy he truly wants.
So I congratulate Malkin on a spectacular season worthy of the praise he's receiving . Considering where he was health-wise this time last year, I have a good feeling about what this summer will do for a healthy Malkin.
I will close with quite possibly my favorite non-Stanley Cup Final moment in Malkin's career.
CF94- Richards Buries Malkin And Malkin Scores Goal After (via CanesFans94Hockey)
Take that, indeed.
Go Geno. Go Pens.