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The Full Malkin: Passing his Idol, Being Underrated, & Laughs at Ovechkin Chirp



Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin is happy not dealing with the sometimes suffocating media throng that teammate and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby manages on a near-daily basis. He’s a little bothered but enjoys the upside of being underrated by the North American hockey world, and he’s already begun the countdown to 500 goals.

Malkin, 37, is 16 goals away from the magic 500-goal mark and referenced it a few times within a five-minute chat Friday afternoon at the UPMC Lemieux Complex.

Wednesday night, Malkin scored a pair of goals, surpassing his hockey idol, Sergei Federov, as the second-highest Russian-born goal-scorer in NHL history. Malkin’s pair of goals vaulted the Penguins to a 7-0 win over the New York Islanders. Malkin netted goals No. 483 and 484.

“In my mind, (Federov) is the best Russian player of all time. When I was growing up, I looked at how he played,” Malkin said. “We’re really good friends, and it is big for me. I know it’s just numbers … it’s huge for me. And we know the next number is 500.”

Both coach Mike Sullivan and Crosby have recently acknowledged with just a tinge of disappointment that Malkin remains underappreciated, if not vastly underrated, in the eyes of the greater hockey community.

After all, Malkin is about to score his 500th goal and, with 42 points in the remaining 49 games, could reach 1300 points. He’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer but has endured a career of slights, including being left off the Top 100 all-time players list in 2017.

It does seem those who see Malkin on a daily basis, or more frequently, rate him higher. However, there are advantages to existing Crosby’s and Alex Ovechkin’s shadow.

“Maybe a little bit (I’m underrated). I’m not the kind of guy who wants the media around him. I like to be quiet,” Malkin said. “I want just to play the game. (If I were more famous), people might (infringe) on my private life. I like to be quiet, and my English wasn’t as good before.”

Growing up, Malkin’s favorite player was Sergei Fedorov, who lifted three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings before spending time with the Anaheim Ducks (then the Mighty Ducks), the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Washington Capitals.

Federov was a speedy forward who also spent time as a defenseman in a pinch. In the clutch-and-grab era, Federov put up 1179 points in 1248 games.

He wasn’t the first Russian to bolt his home country to play hockey, but he was the biggest name to slip away. Federov joined the Red Wings in 1990-91, before the fall of the communist Soviet Union.

“He’s a really good skater. He’s really smart. He looked good (with those) white Nike skates,” Malkin said. “Maybe (he didn’t have) the best shot, probably. But he was a complete player.”

Of course, Malkin still trails Ovechkin, the most prolific Russian goal scorer in history with 828 goals and Malkin’s longtime friend. Malkin hasn’t yet received a text from Federov but had a good laugh over Ovechkin’s communique.

“Not yet (received a text from Federov). I’m waiting, but Ovechkin sent me a message (Thursday). He said congrats on second place. I’m still in first,” Malkin said as he delivered the punchline with ease. “Nobody will catch (Ovechkin), and I’m happy with second place. This season, I want more. I want 500, and I’m trying.”