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Happy Birthday, Geno!

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Pittsburgh's favorite Russian turns 32 today!

NHL: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Can you believe Evgeni Malkin is really turning 32? I had to double check and make sure, because he's definitely not playing in the NHL like someone who is turning 32. I still remember a tall and lanky 20-year-old Russian who disappeared from his team in Finland and suddenly arrived in Los Angeles just prior to the Penguins training camp in 2006. I also remember thinking there was going to be another Cold War over the status of his contract. He literally faxed a two week notice to his team in order to get out of his Russian league contract to play in the NHL, and it worked because, well, Russia. I think all Penguins fans will be forever grateful for that decision to leave the country he so dearly loves, no matter the circumstances.

All Malkin has done since then was win three Stanley Cups, the Hart Trophy, Conn Smythe, two Art Ross’s, Ted Lindsey Award, and the Calder Trophy. Even Sidney Crosby didn’t win the Calder Trophy; pretty much the only hardware he’ll be missing before he hangs ‘em up. Malkin has also played in four All-Star Games, which would have been a lot more had it not been for injuries, lockouts, and Olympics. He has also honored his country in three Olympic Games and seven World Championships — winning gold in 2012 and 2014; he also was named MVP in 2012.

Since today is Geno’s birthday, let’s reminisce about some of his best seasons and moments during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are endless amounts of them, and every season has been a pleasure, so I’ll just limit it to his five best seasons and top-10 moments. Of course, there’s probably something I missed, so please go wild in the comment section to show your appreciation for the 101st Greatest Player of All Time.

Best Seasons:

2008-09:

Regular Season: 82 GP, 35 G, 78 A, 113 PTS, 80 PIM, 290 SOG, 4 GWG; 22:31 ATOI
Playoffs: 24 GP, 14 G, 22 A, 36 PTS, 51 PIM, 104 SOG, 3 GWG; 20:57 ATOI
*Bold denotes career best

  • Won his first Stanley Cup after losing in 2008 to the Red Wings.
  • Won the Conn Smythe with the most points (36) in one Stanley Cup Playoff since Wayne Gretzky in 1993. His 36 points are the 7th most all time, with only Gretzky (4x), Mario Lemieux (‘91), and Paul Coffey (‘85) as the only players to score more.
  • First Russian to win the Conn Smythe; also first European player to win award.
  • Runner up to Alex Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy; also finished 2nd in 2008 to Ovechkin.
  • First of two Art Ross Trophy’s; set career high for points, assists, TOI, and second-consecutive season playing all 82 games. His most since then was 78 GP this season and the only other time he’s played 70+ since was in 2012.
  • Second player in Penguins history to win Art Ross and Conn Smythe in same year — Mario Lemieux, 1992.

2016-17:

Regular Season: 62 GP, 33 G, 39 A, 72 PTS, 77 PIM, 191 SOG, 6 GWG; 18:37 ATOI
Playoffs: 25 GP, 10 G, 18 A, 28 PTS, 53 PIM, 60 SOG, 0 GWG; 18:04 ATOI

  • Third Stanley Cup, and second of back-to-back Championships.
  • Led the Penguins in scoring in the playoffs with 28 points.
  • Eclipsed 30 goals for the first time since 2012 despite missing 20 games.
  • Moved into the top-10 in points by Russian born players; Currently is 5th place with 930 career points.

2006-07:

Regular Season: 78 GP, 33 G, 52 A, 85 PTS, 80 PIM, 242 SOG, 6 GWG; 19:10 ATOI
Playoffs: 5 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, 8 PIM, 10 SOG, 0 GWG; 19:34 ATOI

  • Set a modern day NHL record by scoring goals in each of the first six games of his career.
  • One-upped Sidney Crosby by winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. He is the second player in Penguins history to win the award (Mario Lemieux, 1984).
  • Scored first goal in first game against Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur on October 18, 2006.
  • His rookie season was the first season the Penguins qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is now the longest current streak in the NHL. He’s never missed the playoffs since joining the NHL, even when he was injured in 2011.

2011-12:

Regular Season: 75 GP, 50 G, 59 A, 109 PTS, 70 PIM, 339 SOG, 9 GWG; 21:01 ATOI
Playoffs: 6 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS, 6 PIM, 26 SOG, 0 GWG; 22:15 ATOI

  • Won the Hart Trophy as league’s MVP.
  • Set career highs with 50 goals, 339 SOG, and nine GWG.
  • Bounced back tremendously from tearing MCL/ACL in previous season.
  • Became unanimous leader and raised his level of play while Crosby recovered from concussion/neck injury that limited Crosby to 22 games.
  • Joined list of Penguins legends to score 50 or more goals (Pierre Larouche, Jean Pronovost, Rick Kehoe, Mike Bullard, Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, Jaromir Jagr, and Sidney Crosby).

2017-18

Regular Season: 78 GP, 42 G, 56 A, 98 PTS, 87 PIM, 239 SOG, 7 GWG; 18:59 ATOI
Playoffs: 9 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 PTS, 16 PIM, 23 SOG, 2 GWG; 18:57 ATOI

  • Played in 90-percent of regular season games for the first time since 2012 and only fifth time out of 12 seasons.
  • Had highest shooting percentage of his career, both playoffs (17.4%) and regular season (17.6).
  • Third-most goals scored in his career and fourth-highest points total of career. His 42 goals were also the most since 2012.

Honorable Mention:

2015-16:

Reg Season: 57 GP, 27 G, 31 A, 58 PTS, 65 PIM, 162 SOG, 6 GWG; 19:22 ATOI
Playoffs: 23 GP, 6 G, 12 A, 18 PTS, 18 PIM, 72 SOG, 1 GWG; 17:31 ATOI

  • Was banged up most of the year, including playoffs, but was still a warrior and won his second Stanley Cup en route to back-to-back Championships.

Best Moments:

Honorable Mention:

January 19, 2010 vs. New York Islanders; Malkin scores a hat trick and Crosby puts up six points. I was there, a week after my 21st birthday, and this was one of the most memorable games I’ll ever go to in my life. The only thing that can top this game is a Stanley Cup-clinching game for me.

#10. May 31, 2009 at Detroit; Zetterberg vs Malkin. I’m sure you remember this one.

#9. October 18, 2008 vs. Toronto. Crosby’s 100th goal, Malkin’s 200th point, Crosby’s 300th point. How ‘bout that?

#8. March 4, 2013 vs. Tampa Bay; Returns from injury, picks a puck out of the air and then goes to work against the defense.

#7. November 17. 2015 vs. Minnesota; Phil feeds him, Geno say “I am score now.”

#6. November 15, 2011 vs. Colorado; I miss the Nealer and Geno Show. And Blur. Also, who’s Evgeny?

#5. November 1, 2017 vs. Edmonton; There are no words, and this is only No. 5.

#4. October 24, 2006 vs. New Jersey. Martin Brodeur just got torn a new one for the first and last time by a 20-year-old. Mario Malkin? Evgeni Lemieux?

#3. February 25, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay. Geno had himself a day. Too much man.

#2. April 21, 2009 vs. Carolina. The night Evgeni Malkin broke Cam Ward. He’s still in recovery.

#1. May 9, 2009 at Washington. Malkin overtime winner in Game 5. It may not be the prettiest goal, but it’s one of the biggest he’s ever scored. The Caps returned the favor in Pittsburgh in Game 6 in OT, but we all remember “The Save” by Fleury Game 7, and then the smacketh downeth that came next. This has to be No. 1.

So there you have it. Malkin’s had so many highlights that I had a seriously hard time narrowing it down to 10. These are all some of the most gorgeous goals scored in the NHL since No. 71 first stepped onto an NHL ice surface. I have a feeling he’s not even close to being finished making more.

He may not be one of the 100 greatest ever, but he’s still No. 1 in our hearts. Thank you, Geno. Happy Birthday!