Sullivan: Malkin has ‘another level’ as the Penguins star searches for first point in Stanley Cup Final

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Three games into the Stanley Cup Final, and Evgeni Malkin has yet to record a point.

The Pittsburgh Penguins still lead the championship series 2-1 over the San Jose Sharks, but Malkin’s lack of production — zero points with eight shots on goal so far — is now under the microscope after his team was unable to take a stranglehold lead following Saturday’s overtime loss.

“I think one of the things we’ve always impressed upon our group is we are a coaching staff that doesn’t believe in taking the sticks out of their hands. We want our players to make plays. We want them to act on their instincts. We also want them to have calculated risk in mind,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.

“Geno is no different. He is buying into our team concept here. He’s been a big part of this playoff success. But certainly I know that there’s another level that he has to help us win.”

Malkin has already endured a slump in the post-season, going six games without a point through the second round and into the third.

He then came alive with a five-game point streak totaling six points to close out the Eastern Conference Final and help defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“No, what do you mean? We lead 2-1 in the series,” said Malkin on Sunday when asked if he’s getting frustrated.

“I’m not scoring much but I’m trying to help my team in different ways. Play better in d-zone. I’m trying, it’s not easy but I’m trying to score. Maybe tomorrow. I’m trying my best.”

Malkin isn’t the only star player in this series finding it difficult to score or produce points. For example, Sharks’ captain Joe Pavelski, who leads all players in these playoffs with 13 goals, has also been held without a point through three games.

“Those guys get a lot of attention,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. You get asked the same thing about Malkin and some of the guys on their end. It’s tough this time of year.”

On the road Saturday, Malkin’s line with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust saw a healthy dose of Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon at five-on-five and held control of the possession numbers throughout, as per War-on-Ice. It was a little tougher against Brent Burns and Paul Martin, but Malkin was still able to have favorable possession numbers at even strength against those blue liners, as well.

It’s interesting to note that Malkin was briefly put together with Sidney Crosby as it looked like Sullivan was trying to load up a line in search of a goal. Worth noting, too, that in 2:54 of five-on-five play, the duo of Malkin and Crosby had seven Corsi Events for and only one against.

It remains to be seen if Sullivan starts to work that pairing a little more in Game 4, but it definitely seems like something to seriously consider in a bid to get Malkin on the board.

“It just takes a bounce or a goal or some sort of momentum to kind of get that confidence going, and I think when you have the chances, usually that confidence is there. And he’s had them, so that’s a good thing,” said Crosby.

“I think you look at his game and what he generates for himself and the guys around him, it should be just a matter of time.”