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Season in Review: Evgeni Malkin

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Key Stat: As the game went longer, Evgeni Malkin got stronger. He recorded more goals (19) and points (42) in the 3rd period than any other period, and in fact in the last 5 minutes of games alone, Malkin scored 19 goals and added 13 assists.

Interesting Note: Pittsburgh fans, Malkin performs for you. In 37 home contests Malkin had an amazing 67 points (29 goals + 38 assists). Away from Consol, Geno had 42 points (22g + 20a) in 38 games. But he actually had more shots on goal on the road (174 to 165), so with a little more luck and not so many posts, maybe it could have be in the other direction next season.

The Good: As you would imagine, no matter how you slice it, Evgeni Malkin was a certifiable beast in 2011-12. He lead the Penguins in every major category and won the scoring title and MVP. Take a look and it's easy to see why: Malkin was #2 among forwards in goals scored per 60 minutes played at 5 on 5 (.01 behind Tampa's Steven Stamkos). Malkin blew away the entire league at points/60 at 5v5 with a 3.66 mark that only Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle was within .78. At the risk of going on and on, you get the picture. Malkin was the most dominant offensive player in the game, turned James Neal into a 40 goal scorer and helped his other linemate Chris Kunitz to a career year in goals and points as well. He was good, he made his teammates better and he helped the team get through all the emotional peaks and valleys of the Sidney Crosby when will he/won’t he saga that lasted from before this season until March. And Malkin did all of this despite having major knee reconstructive surgery seven months before the season started.

The Bad: It’s like counting freckles on Kate Upton, but Malkin did take 35 minor penalties in 2010-11, and even this was down from the 50 minor penalties he was whistled for his last full season in 2009-10. Still, if there’s one aspect of Malkin’s game you’d like to see improvement on, it’s controlling his outbursts, especially after the whistle. Malkin has to be smart and controlled enough not to feed the trolls, like when Sean Couturier gets in his face and pushes him after every whistle, he can’t hit back when the refs are watching, he has to skate away and keep it between the whistles. Of course, saying this is on a blog, in summer, is a lot easier said than reality when you have a guy chipping at you all game long in the winter.

Moment to Remember: January 15, 2012 at the Tampa Bay Lightning.So many to choose from for a guy who scored three or more points nine times this season, but the one that stands out to me is a perfect example of Malkin’s dominance and brilliance. The Pens scored 35 seconds into the 3rd period to take a 3-0 lead (Malkin factoring in with two assists on those goals) and seemed like they were skating off to an easy win. Then, in a span of 4:50 of game-time, the Lightning took advantage of Pittsburgh dropping their guard and very quickly scored three straight times to tie the game.

As great players so often do, Malkin pretty clearly decided to put his impact on the game. He received the puck in the zone, darted to the center of the ice and threw a backhander by Mathieu Garon. 1:29 later, Malkin collected the puck, raced in all alone and shook Garon with another move to the backhand to give the Pens a 5-3 lead. Shortly after this, Tampa captain Vincent Lecavalier tried to line Malkin up for a big hit along the boards. Malkin picked up on this and ducked the check, sending Lecavalier splatting into the boards from his own momentum. Upset by this, Lecavalier started punching Malkin in the back of the head, earning a game misconduct.

Malkin would finish a natural hat-trick and close the game’s scoring at 6-3 when he tacked on the empty netter. A 5 point, virtuoso performance.

Moment to Forget: February 5, 2012 at the New Jersey Devils. Well, if we had to pick one, how about this 5-2 loss to the Devils in which Malkin was a -4 on the night. But, even in this game he still recorded a power play goal. It’s pretty damn hard to find a night when he didn’t contribute something to the team.

Discussion: The Pens still have a whole in their top six, and while Kunitz-Malkin-Neal was the top offensive line in hockey, it seems likely the team will be re-uniting Kunitz with Sidney Crosby at some point. Any hopes for who you’d want to fill out Malkin’s line internally? Short of that, what non-home run trade (i.e. no Bobby Ryan, no Evander Kane) type player would you think could fit in with Geno and the Pens? Also, after he literally did it all in 2011-12, what constitutes a successful season for Malkin in 2012-13? Finally, next season if I tell you Malkin and Crosby both will play 80 games next season, you tell me how many points each ends up with.