How can you tell when things are going well for Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin? There’s his play. And then there’s his playfulness.
Both were evident Thursday night. He had a goal and an assist in the Penguins’ 5-2 win at Buffalo, running his point streak to six games. Afterward, in a video chat with reporters, Malkin went back and forth between sincerity and hilarity.
Asked what the Penguins – winners of four straight games and nine of 12 – need to solidify their standing as a Stanley Cup contender, Malkin quipped, “Mario Lemieux?”
Then he gave a more serious answer.
“I don’t know. It’s a hard question,” he said. “If you look at the last four games it’s all good. Maybe no injuries, everyone back. We have deep lines. It’s hard to say. Maybe we need a little bit of luck.
“Sometimes it’s not the best team to win the Cup; it’s more like the hardest team to work on the ice, they are blocking shots (for instance). We have everything to win. It’s hard to say right now. We have lots of games (left). Now it looks fine, but we need to work every day to get better and better every game, for sure.”
Malkin tried to define what has helped the Penguins gather more wins and get themselves into a better playoff position lately.
“I think more confidence. When you win a couple straight games, you have more confidence,” he said. “Yeah, we’re feeling more like we work together.
“The goalie (Tristan Jarry), the last four games, too, he saved it. He’s amazing. I think he’s the best player on the team right now. We try to help him. The power play works right now. It’s everything (that has) come back.”
Evgeni Malkin was perhaps at his most sincere when asked about Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who picked up his 300th win.
“We gave him a puck, the victory puck. Everyone said congrats,” Malkin said. “He’s a great guy, a great coach. It’s not over. I hope he works a long time with the team and in the NHL, too. More wins for him.”
Malkin’s two points against the Sabres gave him two goals, seven assists during his point streak, which mostly has come after he said he felt as if he was on the verge of finding his game.
Part of that could well be the chemistry he has developed with winger Kasperi Kapanen. His goal Thursday came when off a drop pass from Kapanen on a play where the two seemingly had strong communication.
“It’s OK. I said before, we play good and the next game we’re not good,” Malkin said. “I want to be patient and say we work hard and we’re OK right now.”
Then Malkin, 34, got playful again talking about his relationship with Kapanen, 24.
“I don’t know. He speaks Finland. I don’t understand,” Malkin deadpanned. Kapanen, for the record, speaks English more fluently than Malkin, who is Russian.
“Yeah, we try to be nice together,” Malkin said. “On the road right now we all stay in the hotel (due to COVID-19 restrictions). We’re not going out, not going to dinner together. But still, I don’t know, maybe I’m too old to him, but I try to be with him, play cards (on the team plane), play video games in the hotel. He’s a good guy.”
Evgeni Malkin Postgame Chat: