Tonight at the NHL awards, other than the horrible Nickelback, you're likely to see one Evgeni Malkin coronated as the league MVP as the winner of the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay trophy (the player's vote for MVP).
If that wasn't reason enough for a celebration of the accomplishments of Malkin's fantastic 2011-12 season, a Pittsburgh paper had to float the idea of trading Malkin. Today. Of all days. Sure it was under the guise of "some fans are talking about it", but let's be real- there is zero reason to even bring up the whole idea, on this of all days. If Sidney Crosby was about to win the Hart Trophy, would such a column be written? Impossible to imagine. In fact, for just about any player in the league was about to have such a special and great moment, it's really tough to imagine a major paper talking about trading that player in any form or fashion.
So, as an alternative to stuffy traditional media throwing the usual bland, boring spin on a crowning moment, let's take a look back at the top 17 moments of Evgeni Malkin's season. (17, as in the number Russian legend Valeri Kharlamov wore, and the number Malkin inverted and wears as tribute).
Grab a Bud Light, 'cuz here we gooo.
17 - Geno the Training Machine-o
Summer 2011. While Sidney Crosby's murky post-concussion status remained largely untouched by the team, a series of videos about Malkin's training and rehab from over in Russia started popping up. Almost like progoganda the videos should Malkin working very hard and folks like strength coach Mike Kadar (who Malkin hired to come over and help him) and former teammate Sergei Gonchar saying they had never seen Malkin so focused. Well, turns out they were very correct.
16 - Breakaway backhander on "The King"
Fellow Hart and Lindsay finalist Henrik Lundqvist had himself a fine season. But he was no match for the patience of Malkin on this breakaway on February 21st. This goal would prove to be the game winner in Pittsburgh's 2-0 victory, and Malkin also had the primary assist on the game's only other goal by Steve Sullivan.
The other 15 moments after the jump....
15 - Lokomotiv Fundraising Game vs Washington 10/13/11
After the awful tragedy that claimed the lives of the Yaroslalv Lokomotiv team (and so many friends) Malkin and Alex Ovechkin came together to do what they could to help early in the season when the Pens and Caps first met. Jerseys were auctioned, donations collected and good was done. For Malkin, he had an inspired effort- assisting on the only two Pittsburgh goals in a 3-2 OT loss.
What makes this game stand out was the circumstances and Malkin's heart. After playing the first two games of the season, Malkin had to sit the next two with "knee soreness" and cited pain on the scar of the ACL surgery he had endured less than 8 months prior. But there was no way in the world Malkin was going to miss the Lokomotiv game for his fallen comrades. So he played, and played well. After his game he'd miss the next five before playing in every single game for the remainder of the season.
14 - Hat Trick and 5 Point Night vs. Buffalo
One of three hat-tricks and four 5-point performances of the year, Malkin lit up Jonas Enroth and the Buffalo Sabres on December 17th as the Pens cruised to a 8-3 win.
13- Insipring Orpik
Playing with great players can often inspire others to raise their games to new levels. Case and point: how many times have you ever seen Brooks Orpik this far in the offensive zone trying a tricky between the legs back-pass? Yeah, he's probably not doing that if Joe Vitale is out there.
12 - Feeding Kunitz
Showing his vision and ability to stretch the ice, no player was more dangerous with the puck on his stick than Malkin. Here he completes a beautiful pass right up the middle against Chicago on 12/20/11. Malkin would rack up assists on all three Penguin goals in the 3-2 win.
11- 50 goals
It was a dream and a goal for Malkin to score 50 goals, and on the season's final day in an otherwise meaningless game standings-wise against Philadelphia, he was able to complete his goal.
10 - Two slapshots prey on Rinne
The February 22nd game against the Nashville Predators was billed as one of the best teams in the East vs. one of the best teams in the West, and also the offensive Penguins (with Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang) against Vezina-worthy goalie Pekka Rinne and stud defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
Malkin opened the scoring very early in the game with a crazy, knuckle-puck slapshot that beat Rinne's glovehand. Lest anyone think that was a fluke, Geno streaked down the left side again in a similiar manner and fired one of the best slapshots you'd ever see in your life if you lived to be 150.
Even without Crosby, the Pens coasted to a fairly easy 5-1 win.
9- 5 point night vs Winnipeg (part 1)
Malkin channels the Mighty Ducks and pulls out the rare (but always effective) Triple Deke on Ondrej Pavelec for his only goal of the game. Malkin would pick up 4 primary assists on goals by Neal, Kunitz and two for Letang to push the Pens to an 8-5 win.
8- 5 point night vs Winnipeg (part 2)
This isn't a mistake, the next outing against the Jets, Malkin again scored five points (Neal had a hat-trick). This game is pretty notable because Malkin banked one in off Chris Mason from behind the goal-line.
7- Beating the clock vs. Detroit
With time winding down in the first period in a scoreless game against the Detroit Red Wings, James Neal made a great indirect off-the-boards pass to Malkin who streaked down the right side of the ice and put this puck past Jimmy Howard.
6 - Ping, post and in
If not for Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin would have been tops in the NHL for shootout goals and percentage. Like the shootout or not, it's a valuable way for teams to pick up that extra point in the standings. And there's no better sound in the world as a shooter than hearing the friendly and tell-tale "Ping". Post and in vs the Toronto Maple Leafs on 1/31/2012 to help the Pens to the win.
5- 500 points
Malkin's three assists in the Pens 5-2 win over Boston on 3/11/12 included this pass to Matt Niskanen for Geno's 500th career NHL point.
If you wanna know what it's like to have brass balls- play a game IN Montreal, with your team LOSING in the shootout and pull a spin-o-rama on Carey Price. That's what Malkin did on 2/7/12 . It wouldn't be enough, as the Pens lost the shootout, but short of taking Marc-Andre Fleury 's pads away, there's not much else Malkin could have done.
3 - Natural Hatty
Down in Tampa on January 15th, the Pens built a 3-0 lead through two periods, before the Lightning stormed back, tying the score with three quick goals in the span of 4 minutes. All great players have that "switch" to take over a game. Malkin flipped that switch right here, scoring the game's final three goals on superb individual efforts to push Pittsburgh to a win.
2 - Schooling Landeskog and Varlamov
Gabriel Landeskog, 3rd pick of the draft last season in 2011, had a fine season. May even win the Calder for Rookie of the year tonight. This, will probably not make his highlight reel. Malkin forechecks hard and forced Kyle Quincey into an error. Neal collects the puck and wisely dishes back to Malkin, who pulls a dipsy-doo on Landeskog before avoiding an aggressive Sergei Varlamov. All without so much as a smile at the end.
1 - Single handedly destroying the 1-3-1
Remember the 2011 playoffs when the Penguins struggled to break through Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system?
No word if Brett Clark will join Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton for a support group this off-season.
So there you have it, a bunch of fantastic moments and memories from truly a most valuable player.