Player: Evgeni Malkin
Born: July 31, 1986 (32 years old)
Height: 6’ 3”
Weight: 195 pounds
Birthplace: Magnitogorsk, Russia (USSR)
Draft: 2004 PIT, 1st Round (2nd Overall)
2018-19 Stats: 68GP/21G/51A/72P
Contract status: With the 2018-19 season in the books, Malkin now has three years left from his eight year contract extension that he signed in July 2013. This current deal runs through the 2021-22 season and carries an annual cap hit of $9.5 million. The deal went into effect beginning with the 2014-15 season. By the time the deal expires, Malkin will be approaching his 36th birthday.
Regular Season History
A quick look over Malkin’s career stats and one can see his greatness in the numbers he has produced over the course of 13 NHL seasons. For many, 2018-19 was a letdown for Malkin, but he still produced over a point per game pace when he was on the ice. This may have not been a year to write home about for Malkin, but even when he’s off his game he still creates an incredible impact for the Penguins.
Many fans were disgruntled with Malkin’s play at times this year and it wasn’t hard to see why. Though he was producing at over a point per game, he just didn’t seem like himself at times throughout the season. He posted a career worst -25 rating meaning he was on the ice for a fair share of goals against and he was directly at fault for more than a few of those goals.
We would be remiss if we did not highlight the fact that Malkin reached the 1,000 point milestone this season. It was never in question that he was going to hit the mark it was more about when. That moment came on March 12th against the Washington Capitals when Malkin recorded a secondary assist on a third period goal by Phil Kessel.
One thing that really sticks out when looking over Malkin’s history, he has played 12 full NHL seasons (not counting the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but only reached the 75 game plateau on five occasions. Three of those seasons came in the first three years of his career, so since 2008-09, Malkin has only hit 75 games twice. Health has played a bigger factor on Malkin’s career than many of us may realize. He was actually on pace to reach that 75+ games played mark this season before missing a chunk of time in March with an upper-body injury.
|Corsi (EV)||Fenwick (EV)||PDO (EV)||Zone Starts (EV)|
|Season||Age||Team||Lg||GP||TOI||CF||CA||CF%||CF% rel||FF||FA||FF%||FF% rel||oiGF||oiSH%||oiGA||oiSV%||PDO||oZS%||dZS%|
When you put up the offensive numbers like Malkin does then possession stats are generally going to fall in your favor. Even in a down year Malkin was still a positive possession player which bodes well for the Penguins with him as the center on your second line. A sign of concern regarding Malkin is his significant drop in CF%, down almost three points from last season and his lowest since 2008-09.
While his box score numbers will not sound alarm bells, a deeper dive into his underlying metrics shine a brighter light on Malkin’s struggles this season. According to Natural Stat Trick, his GA/60 (goals against per 60 minutes) was a team high 2.83 while his GF/60 (goals for per 60 minutes) came in at 2.71. For comparison sake, fellow superstar Sidney Crosby posted a team high 3.93 GF/60 with 2.09 GA/60, a much better balance between the two statistics for a top line player.
Another area of concern was Malkin’s discipline and overall carelessness with the puck. Once again using Natural Stat Trick as reference, Geno committed 31 total penalties (27 minor, one major, three misconduct) for a total of 89 penalty minutes, the second highest total of his career. In turn, Malkin only drew 26 penalties against the opposition, his lowest total since the 2010-2011 season.
He was also a giveaway machine, turning the puck over a career-high 84 times, which equates to 3.94 Giveaways/60. There was more than one instance this season where a giveaway by No. 71 led directly to a scoring chance the other way or even worse, a goal against.
Like the rest of his teammates, Malkin’s stay in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs was brief and forgettable. If there is any silver lining here, it’s that Malkin tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with a whopping three total points and was one of just six Penguins players to score a goal against the Islanders. This is still a far cry from his worst playoff performance, a zero point effort in a five game loss to the Rangers in 2015.
We can only hope this playoff run is just an anomaly and Geno can rediscover his playoff scoring mojo starting next season. Historically, Malkin has been a playoff monster throughout his career and he has the hardware to show for it. He ran rampant on the league in 2009 with a league leading 36 points on the way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He led the playoff scoring for a second time in 2017 with 28 points as the Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup title.
It’s very difficult to grade Malkin’s 2019 playoff performance because it was so brief and overall the entire team was bad. The fact that he tied for the team lead in scoring and scored a goal says a lot considering how badly everything went in that first round sweep.
October and January were very kind to Evgeni Malkin but the rest of the time it wasn’t always pretty. He began on the season on an absolute tear with 19 points in 10 games, good for second in the league. Geno followed up that torrid start by barely equalling that total in 29 games over the next two months.
A nice bounce back once the new year arrived saw Malkin lead the Penguins in scoring in January but then the injuries arrived starting in February that disrupted the rest of his season. Separate injuries saw Geno miss significant game time in both February and March.
There is no guarantee, but if Malkin does not suffer those injuries perhaps he carries over some momentum from his strong month in January and we are telling a different story about his 2018-19 season.
Displayed this way, it’s easy to see just how much time Malkin has missed in his career with injuries. Outside of his age 21 and 22 seasons, there are sizeable gaps in playing time almost every season after. You have to wonder what his career numbers would look like if he had some of those games back.
When he is on the ice, he spends the vast majority of his playing time in the Penguins top-6 which is really not a surprise given his quality. On most other teams he would likely be the center on the top line but he’s not a bad complement to Sidney Crosby.
Geno spent most of the season with Phil Kessel on his wing which was to be expected given their history together since Kessel came to Pittsburgh. They complement each other well and have great chemistry on the ice. Outside of a brief period in the middle of the season where Mike Sullivan experimented with line shuffling, it was the Geno & Phil show on the second line.
Malkin’s second winger fluctuated throughout the season and he never had a consistent partner on the other side. Carl Hagelin looked to be the other man alongside Malkin but he was traded away for Tanner Pearson who filled that role for a stretch. When it was clear Pearson was not working out, Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese both saw time with Geno as well.
A visual representation of Malkin’s value to the team. Injuries limited his overall ice time for the season but he is relied on heavily nonetheless. This chart really puts into perspective just how fluid his left wing partner was this season. There was a strong bond between Malkin and Kessel but his search for a consistent playing partner on his left side was a season long search that never yielded many results.
Another area where Malkin is heavily relied upon is the power play. He’s been a key component on the Penguins top unit for years now and for good reason. His scoring prowess makes him the perfect weapon to either put the puck in the net or find a guy who will. The top unit sees a majority of the playing time when the Penguins are playing with the man advantage.
As long as the Penguins system remains as is under Mike Sullivan, the Penguins are going to generate shots on goal regardless of who is on the ice, especially when it’s the top two lines. With or without Malkin, the Penguins will get their chances and that was the case once again this season. Having Malkin just gives the Penguins another weapon that creates offense and puts the opposition on the back foot a little more than normal.
Sometimes with great players you have to take the good with the bad and that’s the case with Malkin. When he’s on the ice, his line is going to push play and take some risks in order to be rewarded. Sometimes those risks backfire and cost you, but more often than not the risk is worth it. It didn’t help Geno this season that his giveaways became a major problem and turned into prime scoring opportunities even when he wasn’t trying to make a risky play.
"It's one of the best nights of my life. It's a special day for my family, my friends. I played hockey all my life... It's a special day."#Ma1Kin discusses his milestone: https://t.co/VpukDndN2m pic.twitter.com/PdrZJNq3C1— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 13, 2019
There was never any doubt that Geno is one of the best to ever lace up a pair of skates but seeing the all-time greats hit important career milestones is still a wonderful experience. Much like Crosby recorded his 1,000th point on a Kunitz goal, it felt like it was only fitting that Malkin hit 1,000 on a Phil Kessel tally.
evgeni malkin is back & you’re all in big, big trouble pic.twitter.com/Y9LNsznr1V— ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) February 17, 2019
This isn’t the first time Malkin scored a spin-o-rama goal just the latest. He has quite a few of these on his ledger now but they are something to behold everytime he pulls it off. Hopefully he still has a few more left in the tank.
Evgeni Malkin absolutely smashes this one-timer. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/tHzkE4IZy4— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) November 24, 2018
He doesn’t do it as much anymore, but Malkin can rip a slap shot when he decides to wind up. These mostly occur on the power play when Malkin is playing his typical spot on the right-hand circle. When he connects and places it correctly, these clappers are nearly impossible for a goaltender to stop.
Geno uses this season as motivation and bounces back with an MVP level performance. He eclipses the 100 point mark and perhaps even tops 40 goals. He’s only one season removed from a 98 point total so there should be some hope that he can return to that level once again with better on-ice habits and better health. There are a lot of factors working against Malkin in this situation but he’s still Evgeni Malkin and the talent is still there it’s just up to him to put it all back together.
The days of setting the scoring pace league wide may be over for Geno, but contributing offensively is clearly not an issue as he was well over a point per game pace this season even with all of the other issues he was dealing with. It’s hard to say what can happen with better health, but cutting down on the giveaways and untimely penalties will make his overall body of work look much more impressive than what we saw this season. Playing 75+ games will go along way in making this scenario become a reality, and if it does, there should be no sweating it out to see if the Penguins make the playoffs once again.
Worst Case 2019-20
This season was not a fluke and Father Time continues to take its toll on Malkin. He will be 33 years old by the time next season starts so it’s not wrong to worry that age might be catching up with him. Another season of bad giveaways and stupid penalties could force the Penguins to make a serious decision about Malkin’s future in Pittsburgh.
What an incredibly bizarre season this was for Evgeni Malkin. Between the fast start, the cool down, his 1,000 point milestone, and his injury riddled finish it was unlike anything we have seen from Geno in the past. From a fans perspective, you kept waiting for him to bust out at any moment but it never came or when it did it never lasted long.
As frustrating as it was for the fans, it had to feel 10 times worse for Malkin who you could tell the season was taking a toll on by the end. His October was one of the best months any single player put together this season but his play never carried over. You have to wonder what happens post-January if he doesn’t fall victim to the injury bug that plagued him the rest of the way.
Geno has always been susceptible to giveaways with his style of play but they became much more noticeable at times this season when he wasn’t balancing them out with tons of scoring. The boneheaded penalties are also frustrating but at this point it’s something we should be used to with Malkin.
There is a lot of talk surrounding Malkin’s current status with the team and rumors he could be traded this offseason if the right deal materializes. I find it hard to believe the Penguins would be willing to move on from a franchise cornerstone after one subpar season and it sounds like owner Mario Lemieux has no plans on letting it happen. With all of his talent, the chances of Malkin bouncing back and returning to his past dominance seem like something I would be willing to bet on if I was Jim Rutherford.
Grade Evgeni Malkin’s 2018-19 season
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