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.