Similar to my last article, let me take you back to 2009. The year the Penguins won their 3rd Stanley Cup.
Who won the Art Ross Trophy, given to the player with the most points after the NHL regular season?
Who won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs?
If you guessed Evgeni Malkin, you are correct.
After the 2008-2009 regular season, the Penguins had 2 players with more than 100 points: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. After that, no one else on the Penguins was close. The third highest scorer on the Penguins that year, Jordan Staal, ended the regular season with 49 points.
It really shows you how important it is for the Penguins get production from their star players. It is just how they are built.
Anyways, Evgeni Malkin finished the 2008-2009 regular season with 113 points, and Crosby with 103.
In the playoffs, Malkin recorded 36 points in 24 games, including 14 goals and 22 assists. Crosby was right behind him with 31 points in 24 games, with 15 goals and 16 assists.
Although Sidney Crosby was right behind Malkin in both the regular season and post season in terms of points (heck, Crosby had one more goal than Malkin in the playoffs), who do you remember most from that Stanley Cup winning team?
I sure do remember Talbot with the all famous “shhhh” to the Philadelphia crowd, which was a huge turning point for the Pens in the playoffs. The Penguins were down 3-0 at this point in the game, and came back to win.
I remember Marc-Andre Fleury robbing Alex Ovechkin on a wide open breakaway in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, which turned into a 6-2 Penguins victory.
And who can forget the save that Marc-Andre Fleury made in game 7 on Nick Lidstrom, that ultimately won them the Stanley Cup?!
All of that being said, when I think about that Stanley Cup winning team, I think of Evgeni Malkin.
He was dominant. He was hungry. He put the team on his back during almost the entire season. It is tough to describe, but you just had that feeling that he was in control of the Penguins. He was in the driver’s seat.
Crosby was good, and he was an important piece to the puzzle, but Crosby just never stood out to me during that season.
When I think of 2008-2009, I think of Evgeni Malkin. These are all 3 of his goals against the Hurricanes in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. If you don’t want to watch them all, skip to 2:03 and please watch from there.
His hat trick goal will forever be one of my favorite goals I have ever witnessed in my life. It might be my favorite to be honest with you. I can remember watching this game, seeing Malkin score that goal, and….
Well, listen to the announcer. It says it all: “OH MY WORD!!”
Now, let’s move into the present.
The Penguins just defeated the Minnesota Wild, a great hockey team, 4-3 at Consol Energy Center Tuesday night. The score was close, but the Penguins did play a great hockey game.
I want to note that I am absolutely not sold just by this one game. It was great to see the Penguins bounce back, but as I noted in my last article, it’s about this whole season being a bounce back from every season since 2009. This season needs to be a response. Great game by the Pens, but I need more to be convinced.
Anyways, let’s get back to this game.
I mentioned in my last article how I feel as though Malkin is the true leader of this hockey team, not Crosby, despite Sid wearing the “C” on his jersey.
Tonight just further proved my point.
I mentioned in my previous article that Malkin was the one that called the team out. HE was the one to stand up and confront the media. Everyone on that room was clearly disappointed, but HE was the most vocal about it.
Malkin talked the talk, and tonight, he walked the walk. Or should I say, he skated the skate. (ignore my terrible humor)
He figured into every Penguins goal, notching 2 goals and 2 assists, including a highlight reel goal that proved to be the game winner.
Oh, so what did Sidney Crosby do?
Nothing. At least not on the stat sheet.
This team responded, and it responded well. But it was not Sidney Crosby that responded. It was not his words, nor his actions.
It was Malkin’s.
Last season, the Penguins were on a 0-2-1 skid, scoring only 3 goals in these contests. Malkin stood up: “We know we can come back. I believe this team has good guys and good players. We need to support each other, relax, and we’ll be back.”
The Penguins won both of their next 2 back to back games, and Malkin registered 2 goals, 2 assists, for 4 points during these games. Crosby chipped in 3 assists.
So, what am I getting at here?
Malkin is the true leader of the Penguins team. Please, tell me one time, EVEN ONCE, where Sidney Crosby called out this team, and they responded because of it. Give me ONE TIME where he had as much impact on this Penguins team as Malkin, and I’ll take back what I said.
Crosby is a great hockey player, and I absolutely do not want to take that away from him, but he just isn’t the true leader of this Penguins team. He leads by example (at times, certainly not this year).
I hope Crosby comes around, and I’m sure he will. But being a leader is not just about what you do on the ice, or on the court, or on the field. It’s about what happens off the ice, and from what I can tell, it sure seems like Malkin is more of an overall leader of this Penguins team than Crosby.
I sure hope that “C” on Crosby’s sweater stands for “Crosby,” because if it stands for “captain,” it should most certainly be worn by Evgeni Malkin.