Evgeni Malkin played an outstanding game for the Pittsburgh Penguins during their 3-0 victory in Winnipeg Saturday night.
He’s done that more than a few times over the 999 in which he’s appeared since entering the NHL in 2006-07.
Malkin hasn’t done much against Chicago to pad any of his career totals, however.
When the Penguins face the Blackhawks tonight at 7:08 at the United Center in Malkin’s 1,000th game, it will be just his 15th against Chicago.
That’s fewer than against any other club that’s been around since he broke into the league — Vegas and Seattle are the exceptions — and Malkin’s offensive output against the Blackhawks has been equally modest.
Chicago has yielded a personal-low three of his 451 career goals, and Malkin’s eight assists match his total against Dallas for his fewest against any opponent (except the Golden Knights and Kraken).
The one stat Chicago can’t deny Evgeni Malkin tonight, however, is the opportunity to become the 373rd player in NHL history to play in 1,000 games.
They come in pairs
Chicago was one of the preseason favorites to get a shot at picking up junior phenom Connor Bedard, a consensus choice to be the first player selected in the 2023 NHL Draft, although winning four of their first six games didn’t do anything to enhance the Blackhawks’ chances of securing a prominent spot in the draft lottery.
And while Chicago subsequently has reverted to its expected form — the Blackhawks are 2-6-3 in their past 11 games, including a 6-1 loss in Boston Saturday night — the Pittsburgh Penguins hardly can assume they’ll return home with a couple of points this evening.
That’s partly because this is the fifth time this season the Penguins will have played on consecutive days, and they are 0-3-1 in the second game on the previous four occasions.
Those five sets of back-to-backs have taken place in a span of 28 days, which is interesting in that the game tonight will be the first instance in which the home team for the second game operates in an arena where it shares the building with an NBA club, which can complicate scheduling. (The first four were Calgary, Seattle, Buffalo and Montreal.)
It’s hard to ignore that the Penguins had two off-days following the second game in their first four back-to-backs, and will again after playing Chicago.
And while the league has to take many factors into account when formulating its schedule — including the wants and needs of both clubs — keeping the number of times any team plays on consecutive days to a minimum is prudent.
Having both sides be reasonably well-rested can only help the entertainment value of games, and doesn’t putting forth the best product possible simply seem like good business?
Here are a few stats to keep in mind when the Pittsburgh Penguins take on Chicago:
Getting the first goal of the game hasn’t had a major impact on how Penguins games turn out in 2022-23. They are 5-3-2 when scoring first, 3-4-1 when allowing the opening goal.
The Penguins’ 3-0 surge in the third period Saturday was the exception this season. Even with that lopsided advantage against the Jets, they are being outscored, 26-24, in those 20 minutes.
A few slumps worth watching: Danton Heinen does not have a goal in 13 games, and Jeff Carter has gone 11 without one.
For all of their shortcomings, the Blackhawks are the NHL’s best faceoff team, winning 58.4 percent of their draws. Their go-to guy, not surprisingly, is Jonathan Toews, who is 207-111, a 65.1 percent success rate.
Speaking of faceoffs, the Penguins are 62-38 on them when they’re on the power play, but only 53-62 when they’re killing a penalty. One team having an extra man on the ice to compete for 50-50 pucks resulting from a draw that isn’t cleanly won would seem to explain at least part of that disparity.