In The Dead Of Night
It has been 6 years, 6 very up and down years since Evgeni Malkin left for the United States. He snuck out of Finland, while his team was playing a KHL scrimmage game. Arriving in the US, Malkin only spoke about a dozen English words, but his contagious smile and attitude proved to be universal. His pay this season has not only improved, it has grown leaps and bounds. After two seasons of injury and sub par play, Evgeni Malkin had to watch as his team suffer a disappointing loss in the playoffs. The hit was deep, but it was one that forced the man they call Geno into superstardom.
His training over the summer was the most intense of his entire career. Rehabing from knee surgery, Malkin made it clear that he wasn’t out to just be good again, he wanted to be the best. So far this season it is mission accomplished.
Geno now has 45 goals and 50 assists for 95 points in just 66 games. His play has been stellar and his attitude is even better. When Geno is playing well it is flat out fun to watch, but it is even better to watch Geno enjoying the game again. His smile is back, his humor is back, and his confidence is booming. Along with linemates James Neal and Chris Kunitz, they have formed the most dominant line in all of hockey. Combining for 102 goals, 120 assists, and 222 points, this line has become every teams worst nightmare. They made all star pair Shea Weber and Ryan Suter look like rookies on Thursday night when the Pens beat the Predators 5-1. Their line is top notch, but most of this is thanks to Geno.
His play has allowed James Neal to transform into one of the strongest left wings in the game. His play has catapulted the Penguins into a dead heat for first in the East, despite the team missing over 340 man games to injury. Evgeni Malkin’s play has created a buzz that once again is placing him in the category of Elite, currently held by very few. He is in discussion as the best in the game with Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk. But most of all, he is worthy of his first Hart Trophy as Malkin is likely to become the first player to have two Art Ross Trophies since Jaromir Jagr accomplished this feat in the early 2000’s.
Evgeni Malkin credits his success to a number of things. The admiration he has for Mario for inviting him into his home and helping him come over to the U.S. is one of those things. The aid of Sergie Gonchar throughout his entire career is another. The most interesting is the respect he has for Sidney Crosby. In an interview last fall, Malkin was asked if he had ever played with a guy like Crosby, his answer was simple. He said that he had played with some of the most talented individuals in world, but has never seen anyone dedicate themselves to their flaws like Sid. It changed his view on training and how good he was and how good he can be. In Malkin’s humility he states that he will always be second to Crosby because he is the best player in the world. As of today, he is second to no one.