In another time and another place, Evgeni Malkin would have made a fine captain and leader. With the Pittsburgh Penguins, Malkin usually had the luxury of helping captain Sidney Crosby carry those burdens. Now with Crosby’s first serious injury in seven seasons, fate thrust Malkin back to center stage just months removed from the worst season in Malkin’s career and he is dominating.
Last season, Malkin served opponents pucks and opportunity with poor decisions and compounding frustrations.
This season, he is punishing those opponents. He and his primary linemates Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel have filled the net consistently. All three players are averaging more than a point-per-game, and doing so without the lineup cover of Crosby. Malkin is buying into the system.
“Probably the best-coached team in theThey look flashy sometimes because you see (Malkin), … but you see Guentzel and Rust and these guys flying around. But they get those chances because their fundamentals are so solid.”
Ottawa head coach D.J. Smith said it more simply.
“(Malkin) just kind of ate us up tonight,” the visiting coach said.
But that’s only half the story.