Last year, Evgeni Malkin came just short of winning the Hart Trophy before winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. If there were an NHL award for best overall season, Malkin may have been the unanimous choice. So, yes, perhaps it’s fair for writers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook to wonder if the buzzards will begin swarming if Geno doesn’t start putting up bigger numbers.
“I know I’m not scoring,” Malkin said, meeting the question head on. “People are a little bit maybe mad … “
Not yet, they aren’t.
Malkin gets more of a pass in this town than, say, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who will spend today and Tuesday reading and hearing how he was thoroughly outplayed by Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the Canadiens’ 3-1 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Mellon Arena even though his teammates had a couple of bad breakdowns in front of him.
But it will get ugly for Malkin fairly quickly if his scoring drought continues.
I couldn’t help but wonder, then: has Malkin been that weak in the playoffs? Here’s a spreadsheet with his numbers from last year’s playoffs and this year’s output. Click to enlarge.
After the jump, I’ll throw out a few hypotheses for what might be “ailing” Malkin.
(Note: it’s important to keep in mind that I think it’s silly to throw Malkin under the bus. However, there are a few factors that might play into why he’s only putting up great numbers – 9 points in eight games – instead of astronomical numbers.)
1. Ruslan Fedotenko/Alex Ponikarovsky
Both Sidney Crosby and Malkin are probably used to raising the game of mediocre-to-decent wingers, but it seems like that problem is affecting Geno’s numbers to an extent. In 08-09, Malkin was able to adapt to Fedotenko becoming his main playmaking target after Petr Sykora landed in coach Dan Bylsma’s doghouse. Just look at the drop in Fedotenko’s producton; last year he put up 14 points in 24 playoff games and this year he has a goose egg in only 4 games played. Ponikarovsky isn’t exactly living up to his trade deadline hype, either.
Don’t forget that Malkin boosted his stats against weak defensive opponents last year, feasting on Philadelphia (9 points in 6 GP) and Carolina (9 points in 4 GP) for half of his playoff output. While Montreal and Ottawa are flawed teams, they play tighter defense than most of Geno’s non-Detroit competition from last year.
I don’t like this excuse, but Malkin has played a lot of hockey lately. Perhaps that won’t stop him from being productive, but it could curtail some of his consistency.
Anyway, I must state again that I think it’s silly to complain about 9 points in 8 playoff games. Still, Malkin isn’t a player who affects a game without scoring quite like Crosby, so I can understand the critiques. What do you think? What’s bugging Malkin? Should the Penguins be worried at all?