It's time to step up, no more excuses, no more "wait until Staal comes back"; with Sidney Crosby out for about a week it's time for Evgeni Malkin to bring his "A" game. It's time for Geno to show why he is one of the handful of elite players in the world. Luckily for Pittsburgh fans these are the occasions where 71 takes it to another level.
It is as if Geno waits until he is all alone in the spotlight to be truly great.
In 2007-08 he certainly did just that during a prolonged Crosby absence, Malkin took over--finishing the season with 47 goals and 106 points.
Malkin has a line of 25G-34A for 59 points in the 39 games where Crosby is not in the lineup.
Malkin's stats this year are in a word "sluggish", at 34 points (15G/19A) Geno isn't having a bad season but he isn't having a superstar season either.
Tonight after a pointless game versus Montreal on Thursday he has another chance to get on track against the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild are no slouches, they are amidst the congested playoff race in the West (who isn't) and are coming in riding a 3 game winning streak. While not a flashy team and lacking a superstar the Wild keep finding ways to get it done.
Cal Clutterbuck, loved by many in the North Star State and despised by many outside of it paces the team with 12 G (tied with Brent Burns). The Wild are 9-2-1 when he scores a goal this year.
Pens need this one to keep pace with the Flyers, they should take it, 4-1 Pittsburgh.
Since I was away on an extended Holiday break, here are some of my other thoughts on happenings with the Penguins the last two weeks:
I used to feel bad for Carey Price-- The intense scrutiny, the weight of Habs fans expectations, the Halek ordeal. Then he went and did this:
Games in Montreal are always fun, the crowd noise and enthusiasm almost takes it to "playoff game" level.
Glad the Pens could get a point in a hostile environment on the road with Johnson in net and Crosby on the shelf, especially after killing the never-ending penalty at the end of the 3rd period.
An under appreciated aspect of the Penguins has been their fantastic penalty kill, now at 1st in the NHL at 87.6%.
On the great atmosphere note, the Winter Classic atmosphere was awesome outside of Heinz Field and like nothing I have ever experienced with a hockey game; unfortunately I did not get in the stadium, but the tailgating and buzz outside felt like huge college bowl game.
The game play was not. I find it interesting that this is the event the NHL uses to draw casual fans into the game. It is a spectacle with a beautiful outside backdrop and interest peaks because of the uniqueness of the event, but the game flow in each Winter Classic has been less than stellar. The game is basically slowed down and simplified, as the neutral zone is bypassed--even more so with the rain.
While new viewers may tune in, they aren't getting the beauty and full measure of the sport. If the NHL can somehow combine both you may see a a boom in new fans.
Hope everyone had a Happy New Year, when the calender rolls over you can be sure of one thing, great hockey is soon to follow............follow me on twitter here