Evgeni Malkin earned the honor. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Penguins players voted center Evgeni Malkin as their MVP for the fifth time in his career. Only Mario Lemieux (12) and Sidney Crosby (8) have won the award more often.
Malkin shouldered the responsibilities of the struggling Penguins in early November. After missing most of the first four weeks of the season due to injury, Malkin returned just before a sports hernia forced captain Sidney Crosby to miss 28 games.
Malkin, 34, was dominant. He scored 74 points (25g, 49a) in just 55 games and scored 38 points (11g, 27a) during Crosby’s 28-game injury absence. Malkin connected for 40% of the Penguins offense during Crosby’s injury and helped linemate Bryan Rust reach a career-high, 27 goals.
Eventually, head coach Mike Sullivan moved LW Jake Guentzel to Malkin’s line, as well. The trio became one of the best lines in the league and scored 18 goals in 21 games before Guentzel suffered a severe shoulder injury on Dec. 30.
Malkin was blunt last September that he was not happy with his previous season, and his mission this season was to prove he was “not done.”
Malkin’s performance, while injuries decimated the Penguins lineup, perhaps saved the season. The Penguins had 302 man-games lost to injury, which was fourth-most in the NHL. His 0.89 assists per game ranked fourth in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (0.98), Leon Draisaitl (0.94), and Artemi Panarin (0.91).
Malkin’s 1.35 points-per-game ranked sixth in the NHL, and his 74 points ranked 14th overall.
As a sidenote, Malkin’s 25 goals were the seventh straight season he scored 20 goals, and the 12th time in his career he reached the level, which tied him with Lemieux and Crosby for more 20-goal seasons in franchise history.
Malkin had elbow surgery following the NHL postseason but will be ready for the scheduled mid-November training camp.
The Penguins press release also noted:
Malkin’s season was also filled with milestones as he continues to climb the NHL all-time ranks. His most prominent milestone was when he scored his 400th career goal on Dec. 17 at Calgary. In doing so, he became the fourth Penguin, and 99th player in NHL history to score 400-plus goals. Of those 99 players, 52 of them are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and another 14 are still active players or have not yet been out of the NHL long enough to be eligible to be elected.f