clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Malkin approaching 1,200 points, remaining consistent force for Penguins

Evgeni Malkin has been having a great year for the Penguins

Colorado Avalanche v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Months after the fact, it’s still a crazy thought that the Pittsburgh Penguins almost let Evgeni Malkin get to free agency and out of the organization after all the years and key performances that he’s provided for them. The forward even said he was going to do so, before reversing course just hours before his sting with the Pens would have ended. Malkin signed a four-year contract extension that didn’t truly seem to fully please him.

Luckily, that process will fade into being a mere footnote in Malkin’s illustrious career. Year one of the extension has been a positive one individually so far - Malkin’s appeared in all 50 of Pittsburgh’s games to date and his 52 points rank second on the team.

“I think he’s put himself in elite company,” coach Mike Sullivan said yesterday before the game against Colorado. “I see a driven hockey player. I think he’s playing extremely hard. He’s not a perfect player by any stretch, but he’s an elite player. He still has the ability to dominate the games. That’s what I see.

“There’s nights when the puck just follows him around, it seems. That’s when he’s at his best. I think ‘Geno’ has quietly been one of our more consistent players. He brings it every night.”

With due respect to the coach, lately, it hasn’t been that quiet. Malkin’s two goal and two assist game against Vancouver on January 10th was the primary reason that the Penguins turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead in the blink of an eye.

Malkin ranks fifth in the NHL in scoring since 1/10 with 17 points in his last 11 games. He also leads the Pens with 32 points in 27 games since December 1st.

To part of Sullivan’s point, it hadn’t been perfect. Malkin took an offensive zone penalty in overtime that could have proven costly. Of course, at the same time, one of the main reasons outside of Casey DeSmith that the Pens even made it to that overtime was Malkin’s efforts on what ended up being Bryan Rust’s third period goal.

Being back with Malkin might be a blessing for Rust. The typically productive winger entered last night with only two goals in his prior 16 games, dating back to before Christmas. While the Pens’ top-six forward group has been far from problematic, getting more out of Rust down the stretch would surely be a welcome development for the team. Rust hasn’t had the smoothest of seasons, but could be in line for a breakout with Malkin and Jason Zucker if the trio can continue to build off of games like last night.

With two assists last night, Malkin inched up to 1,198 career points. He’ll soon become the 51st player in NHL history to cross the 1,200 point plateau. Similar to his free agency saga, it’s not always been easy for him to gain the respect or attention he has earned along the way (Mr. 101 saga, anyone?). But, much like the Pens’ win last night, getting there matters more than the other questions like how.

“Our guys found a way,” Sullivan said after the game and thrilling 2-1 overtime victory. “I thought we grabbed ahold of it in the third period in particular, and I think that’s something to build on. It’s a character win.”

By factoring in on both of the goals, there was a lot of Malkin’s character in the victory.