When the season stopped in March, it was a shame for Evgeni Malkin. He was in another redemption type of season, scoring 74 points in 55 games and leading the whole league in 5v5 points/60 played. Malkin was also helping to boost linemate Bryan Rust to a career season.
Then, suddenly, it was over.
For his part, Malkin is on the warpath and has been noticeably dialed in since the Penguins have started Phase 3 last week.
The best interviews are Geno interviews. Prove us wrong. pic.twitter.com/AlBxPjDSpj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 20, 2020
Speaking for the first time since March, Malkin sounded just as focused on the task at hand this summer.
“It’s my job,” Malkin said. “It’s what I love to do all my life. It’s a new reality right now. It’s not easy for everyone. We understand how important this is for each player. We try to do everything to get back and play playoffs. It doesn’t matter no fans (are present at games). It’s hard but we still love the game. I’m focused right now to my game. Everything. I sleep well. I work out every day.”
Malkin also sounded pretty content with how his new line is coming along. Jason Zucker joined Malkin and Rust for the first time last week. The trio have been dangerous, as to be expected, in the two intra-squad scrimmage.
“We’ve scored a couple of goals,” Malkin said. “We didn’t play much this year. It’s coming, I hope. We play with Rust, too. He’s my new partner this year, for a long time now. I think we’ll be fine. We have a good system. We’ll be dangerous, for sure.”
Zucker and Rust on Malkin’s wings is an exciting thought. It’s been a long time that Geno has had two players with 30 goal potential on his wings. Zucker scored 20 combined goals this season between Minnesota/Pittsburgh in 60 games, Rust tallied 27 times in 55 games.
The style has been a fun fit too. Zucker and Rust have been speed demons on the forechecks and strong in the corners. Malkin has been freed to use his trademark galloping skating stride to roam all over the ice, hunting the puck when he doesn’t have it, and pushing the issue when he does.
“We missed so many days, like (four) months,’ Malkin said. “But every day is better. We play (Monday), and I feel so much better. The team looked good. We played hard. We tried to play like a real game. A couple hits, blocking shots. Practice is not a real game but we try to be close. But I like what I see, in myself and the team too.”
It’s tough not to like what Malkin is doing right now. He’s re-emerging as one of the world’s best players and is in great form. Perhaps even more importantly, the mental focus and confidence levels, that at times admittedly betrayed him last season, have done a 180 degree turn over the last year and he is in a good spot there as well.
All that is left is to get to the hub in Toronto and see what Malkin has in store for such a unique format that is upcoming.