If history is any indication and past is prologue, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are in the beginning moments of career years. Malkin has begun the 2018-19 season with career-best start and Kessel a near-best start. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ rocket ship duo who like to play together but are not always present in the defensive zone are putting up points at a pace which could propel them to the top of the NHL.
Malkin, 32, is off to the best start of his career. His 20 points, including seven goals, are the best opening 11 games of his career. This season, Malkin has six multi-point games and is hovering at the top of the NHL scoring leaders despite the Penguins occasionally sparse October schedule.
Malkin scored 17 points in 2007-08 (5g, 12a) but that season seems like a lifetime ago. Even in Malkin’s two Art Ross seasons (2008-09, 2011-12), Malkin did not have such a dynamic start.
In 2008-09, Malkin had 16 points (3g, 13a) in his first 11 games. In his second Art Ross worthy season, the big Russian had 14 points in 2011-12.
When Malkin starts hot, he stays hot.
Like Malkin, Kessel’s starts have also been a harbinger of things to come.
The best start of Kessel’s career was with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12. The American sniper picked 10 goals and eight assists in his first 11 games. Kessel reached 20 points in just 12 games that season. He finished the 2011-12 season with then a career-best 82 points including a career-high 37 goals.
Last season, Kessel eclipsed his career-year 82-point season with 92 points as Penguin. After a pair of Stanley Cup championships, he scored 11 points (4g, 7a) in his first 11 games.
But this season is something different. Kessel and Malkin are paired together despite the Penguins coach’s trepidation. They have Carl Hagelin, a puck retrieving, forechecking left wing to do much of the dirty work. And the pair is scorching opponents.
Kessel, 31, has 16 points (7g, 9a) in his first 11 games.
Lookout, this could be fun.