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What's 'wrong' with Evgeni Malkin?

May 3, 2010, 11:45 AM EDT

geno2.jpgLast year, Evgeni Malkin came just short of winning the Hart Trophy before winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. If there were an NHL award for best overall season, Malkin may have been the unanimous choice. So, yes, perhaps it’s fair for writers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook to wonder if the buzzards will begin swarming if Geno doesn’t start putting up bigger numbers.

“I know I’m not scoring,” Malkin said, meeting the question head on. “People are a little bit maybe mad … “

Not yet, they aren’t.

Malkin gets more of a pass in this town than, say, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who will spend today and Tuesday reading and hearing how he was thoroughly outplayed by Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the Canadiens’ 3-1 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Mellon Arena even though his teammates had a couple of bad breakdowns in front of him.

But it will get ugly for Malkin fairly quickly if his scoring drought continues.

I couldn’t help but wonder, then: has Malkin been that weak in the playoffs? Here’s a spreadsheet with his numbers from last year’s playoffs and this year’s output. Click to enlarge.

genoinplayoffs.PNG

After the jump, I’ll throw out a few hypotheses for what might be “ailing” Malkin.


tank.jpg(Note: it’s important to keep in mind that I think it’s silly to throw Malkin under the bus. However, there are a few factors that might play into why he’s only putting up great numbers – 9 points in eight games – instead of astronomical numbers.)

1. Ruslan Fedotenko/Alex Ponikarovsky

Both Sidney Crosby and Malkin are probably used to raising the game of mediocre-to-decent wingers, but it seems like that problem is affecting Geno’s numbers to an extent. In 08-09, Malkin was able to adapt to Fedotenko becoming his main playmaking target after Petr Sykora landed in coach Dan Bylsma’s doghouse. Just look at the drop in Fedotenko’s producton; last year he put up 14 points in 24 playoff games and this year he has a goose egg in only 4 games played. Ponikarovsky isn’t exactly living up to his trade deadline hype, either.

2. Opponents

Don’t forget that Malkin boosted his stats against weak defensive opponents last year, feasting on Philadelphia (9 points in 6 GP) and Carolina (9 points in 4 GP) for half of his playoff output. While Montreal and Ottawa are flawed teams, they play tighter defense than most of Geno’s non-Detroit competition from last year.

3. Fatigue?

I don’t like this excuse, but Malkin has played a lot of hockey lately. Perhaps that won’t stop him from being productive, but it could curtail some of his consistency.

Anyway, I must state again that I think it’s silly to complain about 9 points in 8 playoff games. Still, Malkin isn’t a player who affects a game without scoring quite like Crosby, so I can understand the critiques. What do you think? What’s bugging Malkin? Should the Penguins be worried at all?

  1. Mema - May 3, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    WE NEED A NEW GOALIE………. THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR WENT TO FLEURY’S HEAD…….. HE HAS NOT BEEN GOOD ALL YEAR………
    TIME FOR JOHNSON……..

  2. Bryan - May 3, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    your an idiot mema, Fleury just won a cup, he’s 25, give the kid time, goalies are like pitchers in baseball they dont hit their prime until their late 20’s. He has only been to back to back cups before the age of 25 and won one of them but he’s a bum and we should get rid of him…I’m tired of dumbass bandwagon jumping fans who don’t know shit about hockey sprouting their opinion off left and right like they actually know what they are talking about.Fleury was not the problem in game 2. The offense has to score more then one goal in the game to win.

  3. John G - May 4, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    Bryan,
    With all due respect bro, Fleury has been a train-wreck for most of his career. Enough with the “he won a Stanley Cup”. Did HE win it? Or, was he the guy in net who did not suck enough to blow it for the guys in front of him? Enough with the “highlight reel saves” and “athleticism” and “acrobatics”. You cannot be watching the game and miss most of those “spectacular saves” were the result of being badly out of position in the first place.
    Hey if the “f-bomb” (as he is known in my home for obvious reasons) wasn’t pulling down $5.25 million per I would afford him more slack. The fact is he is being paid to be just short of the next Roy/Brodeur. Is the extra $2.5 million MAF is earning above his worth moer valuable than room for Ryan Malone?
    To James O’Brien, it is not the numbers that are Malkin’s troubles it is his overall play, specifically his “effort” away from the puck. The turn-overs, my god the turn-overs. Will they ever stop? I love Gino as much as anyone but you cannot be watching the game and conclude he has been mediocre at best. On some nights he is flat out a detriment.
    I suspect Gino had a wee little bit too much fun over the off-season, came to camp unprepared and out of shape. He coasted on adrenaline for a couple of weeks but has faded away as the season progressed.
    I believe Gino will learn from his immaturity and mistakes taking his conditioning and his skills for granted and rebound next year. As for the “f-bomb” I don’t care if he backstops 4 Stanley Cups, so long as he continues to under-achieve and be out-played by his opponents he will never be worth the cap space the Pens have wasted on him. Now, if he would like to take a pay-cut of say, $2.5 mil, I will shut my face.

  4. Rocky - May 4, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Unlike some goalies….I worry when the puck is headed Fleury’s way.
    As for Geno…he has seemed under “par”…but I smell a break out coming…..I’m not mad at Malkin, he’s one of my favs.
    Stall’s return will be the difference.
    Go Pens!

  5. Anonymous - May 4, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    I agree with you 100% John G. Dumb blind passes and trying to force passes. Fleury is nothing but a good backup goalie at best.

  6. BML - May 4, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    maybe Geno was just homesick all year. he is a young man far away from home. I wonder if his parents are here in the USA yet,I heard they were having visa problems. I hope he will pick up his game. if not we are doomed without his play and Stall’s absence, and Fleury’s head up his ass.

  7. BML - May 4, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Well things are looking up, Jordan Staal skated this morning.

  8. John G - May 5, 2010 at 5:45 AM

    Jordan Staal is the team MVP this year. Why? He has consistently performed at a high level even when everyone else, including Sid, went through slumps or played in a fund (Malkin).
    He helped them steal a few games they should have lost. Malkin finally looked like Malkin last night but not until the end of the 2nd period. What is up with that?

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