In what might be the least surprising thing you’ll read on this website: If the Penguins are going to push for the Stanley Cup this season, it’s up to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to make it happen.
Yes, we know they’re the two best players on the team by far. Heck, they’re two of the best players in the league. They’ve both won MVP awards and they were vital to winning the Cup in 2009.
Consider this however: It’s been five years since that victory against Detroit. Since then, a myriad of injuries have befallen both superstars. For Crosby it was his head and his broken teeth and Malkin had his knee give way on him. Failing to win in the seasons affected by that is excusable, but last season felt like everything was there for the taking.
Crosby and Malkin were the team’s top two scorers with Crosby winding up with a runaway victory for the Hart Trophy. While Malkin had more injury trouble for parts of the year, 72 points is nothing to sneeze at especially when he played in 60 games. When he’s healthy, he’s a dominating offensive force the same as Crosby.
Yet somehow, success eluded them.
The Pens struggled in six games to knock off the Columbus Blue Jackets and blew a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers before losing in seven games. Crosby looked average for most of the postseason and while Malkin looked dangerous all playoffs long, he was often a man on an island trying to do it all himself.
The Penguins are at their best when both players are able to take over games or share the burden. Think back to that 2009 Cup Final – Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg was able to keep Crosby under wraps, but they had no answer for Malkin. That brand of play was missing in the playoffs last season.
For the Penguins to be at their most dominating, yes they’ll need help from teammates and new coach Mike Johnston certainly has a lot of pressure on him, but they’ll need Crosby and Malkin to show they’re the best every night to do it.
Tonight, there’s a big Metropolitan Division showdown at Consol as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers. You can catch the game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET), or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:
Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’
‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds
Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week
Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley seems pretty chill about healthy-scratching Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma. That goes for Monahan and Gaudreau in particular, noting that they’re “great kids.”
Besides … it’s not like they robbed a bank. (NHL.com)
Uh oh, did Nazem Kadri make the throat-slashing gesture to Mark Giordano? See for yourself in the video above. (Puck Daddy)
What should the New York Islanders do with unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo, who’s enjoying a productive contract year? (The Hockey News)
What a playoff berth would mean to the Florida Panthers. (Sportsnet)
Checking in with various teams as the trade deadline looms. (NHL Numbers)
On the Canucks using those Pavel Bure-era jerseys. (Greatest Hockey Legends)
The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.
Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.
(The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)
Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.
Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.
As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.
The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.
You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.
Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.
Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.
This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.