There’s no way you can argue against Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as two of the NHL’s biggest stars. But when the Russian countrymen face off against each other on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC) it’ll be a tale of two guys who have seen their seasons go in different directions.
Alex Ovechkin: 46 GP – 19 goals, 17 assists – 2nd on Caps in points (Nicklas Backstrom)
Ovechkin and the Caps have had a disappointing season even though they sit atop the Southeast Division (tied with the Panthers in points, just three ahead of the Jets.) We’re used to seeing the Capitals turn things on and take over in the second half, but Ovechkin’s offensive struggles might make that difficult this time ’round.
Rather than helping his teammates raise their game, Ovechkin has slumped — especially with Backstrom out with a concussion. Normally he’s been on a line with Backstrom and Troy Brouwer but unlike Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, Ovechkin hasn’t been able to elevate his linemate’s games.
Ovechkin is on a pace to score less than 40 goals this season while the Caps struggle through trying to stay on top of their division. To say it’s been frustrating for the former two-time MVP this season would be an understatement.
Evgeni Malkin: 40 GP – 25 goals, 30 assists – 1st in NHL in points, t-3rd in goals
Simply put, Malkin has been a monster in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are missing both Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal, yet haven’t missed a beat thanks to Malkin. He’s scoring tons of goals, setting up teammates for others, and looking like the guy who helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Where Malkin has done things different than Ovechkin is in how he’s developed chemistry with linemate James Neal. Neal and Malkin have become a dominant one-two punch as Neal has scored 24 goals and the pair has combined for 98 points, making them one of the top scoring duos in the league and a huge reason why the Penguins have won five in a row.
Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues
In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.
After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.
The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.
The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.
The Islanders also have a game in hand.
Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings
The talented 20-year-old forward and third overall pick in 2013 has since been suspended indefinitely without pay for failing to show up to an AHL game while down in the minors and hasn’t played since Jan. 18.
It’s been a while now, but Turris found himself in a similar situation when, in October of 2011, his agent Curt Overhardt confirmed that the now 26-year-old center wanted to be traded out of Arizona.
Back then, Turris, another third overall pick, was a restricted free agent and had been in contentious contract talks with the Coyotes. He eventually signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes and was acquired by Ottawa not long after.
He’s been there ever since, with two 20-plus goal seasons.
“It’s tough,” Turris told the Tampa Bay Times. “Everyone has mixed feelings, and especially not being an established player. Then people are doubting that you’re doing the right thing, you really have to have confidence in yourself and your ability to do it.
“It was very difficult to do. You’re getting a lot of heat from the media and people, and people within the organization. It was a tough, tough go.”
Speaking of heat from the media: In addition to the suspension, Drouin was ripped in a local newspaper column — “He’s the kid who quit” was one particular line that stands out — for his request and the drama that ensued from that.
For now, the trade deadline (Feb. 29) approaches and Drouin’s request has yet to be granted.