TEMPE, AZ — Evgeni Malkin has six points in his last eight games, beginning when the calendar flipped to 2024. However, Malkin is a minus-2 and highlights the greatest challenge the Pittsburgh Penguins must overcome in their playoff chase.
The Penguins have a star problem. Specifically, it seems two of their stars are absolutely and utterly incongruent, and if the eyes don’t show it, the numbers do.
Malkin and defenseman Erik Karlsson are statistically a detriment when on the ice together. Malkin and Karlsson, or Karlsson and Malkin. It’s your choice in which way you phrase it or to whom you point the finger first. Perhaps their on-ice clash of similar styles, abilities, and shortcomings might have been a flaw that Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas should have seen coming. Their extraordinary goal-differential is approaching the worst-case scenario.
We’ll focus only on even strength for the moment.
As context, the team’s greatest struggle, as confirmed by coach Mike Sullivan, is overcoming the team’s desire to score their way to victory. He often refers to it as their DNA.