With ten points and seven goals in his last six games, Evgeni Malkin has put himself firmly in the conversation for the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies. He’s now within three points of NHL points leader Connor McDavid, despite playing seven fewer games, and two goals behind NHL co-leading scorers—and Team Canada best friends—Brad Marchand and Sidney Crosby.
Crosby is widely regarded as the game’s greatest and most dominant player—and rightfully so. Since coming into the league he’s been just that. But his dominance comes in a different form than Geno’s. It’s a consistent, responsible 200-foot game that includes winning board battles, scoring from the dirty areas, and squeezing production out of even the least likely of line mates. Sure, Sid has had his fair share of highlight-reel goals, but his dominance typically isn’t symbolic of them. It’s sustained over long stretches of play, usually full seasons at a time.
When Malkin is showing his best hockey as he likes to say, he could be one against two, or three, or four and somehow manage to score or generate a scoring chance. It’s a signature of his dominance and some of Geno’s greatest goals are one-man highlights.
The very first clip, from last season’s game against Edmonton, is the epitome of peak Geno. With the Penguins trailing in the game, he took it upon himself to get the team back into it. After a hounding back check and masterful stick lift—similar to fellow countryman Pavel Datsyuk in his prime—Malkin picked up steam entering the zone, ever so slightly faked cutting inside to the high slot, and fired a Patrick Kane-esque spinning backhander that beat the goaltender and swung momentum in the Penguins’ favor. The Penguins went on to tie the game before eventually losing in a shootout, and Malkin finished with a game-high 11 shots. He was utterly dominant.
Crosby can dominate all three zones while scoring with the best of them; Ovechkin can anchor himself at the top of the circle and turn four straight one-timers into goals; Patrick Kane can pile up points by dangling every opposing player on the ice and goalie on the same shift; and a Connor McDavid rush through the neutral zone can be pretty much breathtaking.
But Malkin’s combination of size, strength, skill, and finesse is unmatched.
Fortunately for the Penguins, who have been struck with a handful of injuries, Malkin is bringing it when the games matter most. After winning a point in Calgary last night, the Penguins are tied atop the Metro (and NHL) standings with the Washington Capitals. If a depleted Penguins team is going to eke out a first-place Metropolitan division finish, and force the Capitals and Blue Jackets to do battle in the first round of the playoffs, they’ll need this Geno for the remaining 14 games.