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Talking to Myself: Malkinmania

This week, I talk about other people talking about Malkin's leadership, Crosby's shot totals, Agnew on Letang, and more.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

December 8th, Penguins Hotline

Stan Savran on Evgeni Malkin's recent play: "He's showing leadership.  He is giving the impression that he knows they are a team that is grossly challenged right now and he is going to step up.  I think that his strong play, given their current circumstances, is more than just his physical presence, but taking the lead.  You know, take some ownership, Geno.  You're paid as much as Crosby.  You're wearing an A.  It's not just enough to score goals, it's gotta be more than that, and I think we're getting more than that from him now."

Malkin's often raised his game when Sidney Crosby is out, but he's been very good all season, whether 87's been available or not.  That is an incredibly good sign for this team.  He's played 29 games and has only been held off the scoresheet 5 times.  He leads the team in points, goals, power play goals and shooting percentage.

December 9, Penguins Live

Brian Metzer questioned the need of some Pens fans to constantly compare 87 and 71:  "You have two of the best players on the planet on your roster and they play off each other very well.  Why can't people enjoy it for what it is: having two of these once-in-a-generation-type talents on the team at one time and we get to enjoy it and take it in on a daily basis?"  Sam Kasan:  "I think it comes down to they are two of the best players, but they are also very different players.  They play the game very differently, their attitude, their play on the ice, kind of the way they lead...  I think the only thing they have in common is that nasty, competitive streak in them that they want to be the best.  I think people tend to see the differences and identify with one."

I think it's fine to have a favorite among the two, but where it gets silly is when people look for way to tear down one guy to build up the other.  I mean, I'm a Geno guy, but I don't feel the need to hammer Crosby on every little mistake he makes.  Both guys are awesome and I'm glad both are on my team.

December 10, Penguins Live

Metzer looked at Crosby's shot totals to see if there was a correlation.  "[Crosby] has all 35 of his points in just 17 games this season.  In those games, Crosby averages 3.23 shots per game.  In the 10 games he didn't get on the board, he has 2.3 shots per game.  Now the more interesting thing about this is over the first 5 games he didn't have points, he had 18 shots.  Over the last 5 that he didn't have points, he just had 5 shots."

He also noted that of the 10 scoreless games, 7 came at the hands of divisional opponents: Flyers, Rangers twice, Islanders twice, Hurricanes, and Devils.  Almost a full shot per game sounds like a pretty wide margin, but I'm not a stats guy.  Just 5 shots in the last 5 games he's gone pointless is a red flag for me though.  As for the divisional stuff, I'm not sure if that's a familiar opponents knowing what to do against him or that playing divisional foes more often leads to a greater chance of having a bad night.  Probably a bit of both, but teams do a ton of video, so if there was some secret to locking 87 down, I'm sure word would get out.

December 11, Penguins Live

Greg Wyshynski on prospective Pens' trades:  "If I'm the Penguins, especially when you're talking about the defense and a guy like Paul Martin, that would be a guy you'd think they might want to flip for some talent the coming other way or include in a deal for a top 6 forward.  If that's the case it makes sense, but if they're just looking to deal him off for assets because you know he's going to walk... I mean take a lesson from the Boston Bruins who did the same thing with Johnny Boychuk out of cap considerations.  They dealt him to the Islanders, who are now great and the Bruins could have really used Boychuk when Chara went down.  Sometimes you think you're dealing from a position of strength or a position where you have to make a deal and it winds up biting you when some unforeseen things happen down the road."

Contending teams generally do not trade valuable UFAs-to-be to avoid losing them for nothing.  They just don't.  Now if a good hockey deal comes along, then sure, you look at it.  You always consider ways to improve your roster, but the Pens aren't going to move Martin or any other valuable piece for picks/prospects just so they don't lose him for nothing.

December 12, Penguins Hotline

Bob Grove on Malkin's game:  "Evgeni Malkin tonight with a couple of assists and boy, did he play with a lot of emotion and was he noticeable on every shift.  Geno was really fired up for this game.  Malkin with 2 assists now has 35 points.  He's tied with Jake Voracek and Sid with 35 each, 1 point behind Tyler Seguin for the NHL scoring lead.  Geno is playing at another level right now.  We've seen his leadership instincts coming through this season.  You could tell he wanted to be a difference maker.  54 home games he's played with Sid out of the lineup: 35 goals, 90 points, about 1.7 points per game."

We all know Malkin has a tendency to step up when Crosby's out, but those home numbers are striking.  He also has a history of lighting up Tampa Bay, recording 18 goals and 17 assists in 27 games against the them.  Tonight could be something special to watch.

December 12, Pens Week

A couple things from Paul Steigerwald:  "On Thursday, they had a really neat drill that was designed to help the forwards get better at getting to the net to find loose pucks and help the the D box out.  What they did was they had 2 D standing in front of the net about 10' out about the width of the goalposts apart with their backs to the goal. They had two forwards facing the 2 D and they put a puck next to the goalie.  They blew the whistle and the defensemen didn't know where the puck was, and didn't care really.  They knew it was somewhere near the net.  The forwards knew where it was and they were trying to get to it and the D had to box them out."

Nothing ground-breaking, but it's the kind of thing I look for at training camp, so I found it interesting,  Anything that makes getting to the net a habit for the forwards and being tough around the net the same for the defense is all good as far as I'm concerned.

"Gary Agnew is a really, really good communicator, a tremendous guy.  I think he really knows the game.  I had a conversation with him about Kris Letang and this is what he said.  'With Letang, the game just comes so easy to him, sometimes he gets bored and he has to try different things.'  I thought that was an interesting take because I know over the years people thought he's trying to do too much."

I've often said this team is at it's best when it plays a simple style and lets its talent elevate that approach to something that's incredibly effective.  That's also individually true of their higher skilled guys such as Crosby, Malkin and Letang.  Despite the criticsm he takes, Letang remains one of the few defensemen in the league that can directly impact a game.  His skating is all-world, hes got better hands than most of the Pens' forwards, his shot is very good, and he's done a better job of getting it on net this season.  He's currently 8th in defense points, despite having only played 24 games.  Everyone ahead of him has played between 39 and 32 games.  As long as he continues to play within himself, the sky is the limit for him.