Looking for a way to forget Monday’s blown third-period two-goal lead, and those six penalty minutes from Jeff Petry?
Let’s focus on a silver lining: this is one of the most productive season starts of Evgeni Malkin’s career.
In fact, this is the first time since the 2006-07 campaign— from which Malkin emerged with the Calder Trophy— during which he has scored three goals in his first three games of the season.
One during a power-play against the Coyotes...
...and two even-strength bombs against the Canadiens.
Malkin might be off to such a hot start because he was finally able to enjoy a fully healthy offseason. He might be scoring because he feels like he has something to prove.
"It was a tough situation for him last year. He's come in after a good hard summer, and he might have a little bit of a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove that he's still got it, and he can still be a really elite player in this league."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 18, 2022
- Bryan Rust on Evgeni Malkin
Or is he scoring because, after seasons of searching, the Penguins have finally found wingers who click with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?
With everyone healthy and Rickard Rakell signed for the foreseeable future, for the first time in a long while, the top two lines are not battling over who should get to skate with Bryan Rust.
That’s paying big dividends for Malkin.
Evgeni Malkin on his second goal:— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) October 18, 2022
“When he turned, spin, I talked to myself like, ‘Give me, Rusty.’ … We talked after goal at bench, and he says, ‘I saw you.’ I’m not surprised. Rusty every year is better and better. He’s a really good player.” pic.twitter.com/gCABfNyn8i
Rust has always played well with Malkin. But because the Penguins tend to prioritize the potency of their first line, he has spent more time alongside Sidney Crosby. Natural Stat Trick reports Rust and Crosby spent 1,209 minutes together at 5v5 over the past three seasons, while Rust skated 904 with Malkin.
But with Rakell flanking Crosby’s right, Rust could potentially bring his tenacity to the second line on a more permanent basis. His puck retrieval abilities, which led to both of the Penguins’ goals against the Canadiens, showed why that could be a good match for Malkin.
Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Canadiens was most certainly the Penguins’ roughest game of the young season. Most of the team struggled. But the chemistry between Rust and Malkin showed how, when the team is healthy, splitting the ever-reliable Rust and Guentzel between the first and second lines can complete the backbone of a formidable top six.
Malkin on his start to the season: "I feel okay. It's a long season. We had a tough loss tonight, but the team - every day we will play better... I feel my confidence."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 18, 2022