If there was any question of Evgeni Malkin's credentials, let his performance on Saturday serve as a reminder that, right now, he is probably the best hockey player in the world.
Malkin put up five points and the Penguins scored eight goals, besting the visiting Jets 8-5.. The result snaps a modest two-game losing skid for the Penguins and a two-game winning streak for the Jets.
Rather than a game story, I'll steal Hooks' schtick and hit out on some bulleted notes.
- While Malkin was the best player on the ice, full credit must be given to Chris Kunitz for playing a tremendous game. Aside from his four-point effort, we saw him do a number of the little things I mentioned a few weeks ago that often go unnoticed. James Neal's goal was an exact replica of his goal against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22. Malkin wins the draw clean, Kunitz creates space, Neal snipes the goaltender. Kunitz doesn't get a point for doing this effectively, but he makes the play happen.
- All four of the Penguins forward lines looked cohesive, balanced and effective. The reintroduction of Jordan Staal added some offensive impetus on his line with Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis, who skated hard all game. Steve Sullivan, Cal O`Reilly and Dustin Jeffrey just seemed to be on the same page all day, at least while in possession.
- Richard Park, meanwhile, saw the benefits of playing with 2005-era Max Talbot clone Joe Vitale and Craig Adams. Park's not a physical player, but he is a smart one and not devoid of talent. He adds just enough game smarts and skill to keep the fourth line from being one-dimensional.
- Staal was solid in his return, nabbing a late goal and adding an assist. He clearly wasn't at his best, and was made to look silly occasionally while play-making or getting knocked around after ambitious attempts to dangle the Jets' defense. But he definitely adds something to the lineup when he's healthy.
- The defense didn't help, but Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't at his best. We can try to overlook that because the Pens scored eight goals. On a normal day, even though the defense didn't exactly inspire confidence, you'd really like to take one or two of those back.
- And to be fair to the defense, these types of games can happen when you play an aggressive, attacking style. Teams capable of scoring eight goals often have to make a trade off to do so. It'd be nice to bring in a solid, experienced defender to pair up with Matt Niskanen as the playoffs draw nearer, but if you're going out there trying to outscore your opponents rather than shut them down, occasional ugly defensive showings shouldn't be a surprise. That doesn't make them acceptable, it just makes them reasonable.
- And, oh yeah. Malkin. What a goal, eh?