Regardless of how Malkin is viewed from a
national perspective, there is no mistaking how
beloved he is in Pittsburgh. As head coach Mike
Sullivan has stated several times when reporters
ask him about the lack of buzz surrounding his star,
Malkin does not go underappreciated in Pittsburgh.
When the NHL celebrated its Centennial Season
in 2016-17, the league unveiled its 100 Greatest
Players at that year’s All-Star festivities in Los
Angeles. Crosby and Ovechkin were named to the
list; Malkin, in spite of all the accolades listed above,
somehow was not.
A two-assist night against the Montreal
Canadiens in Pittsburgh’s fourth game of the 2018-19
season vaulted Malkin into the top-100 scorers of
all-time. Pittsburghers don’t forget such snubs easily,
so the comments below the congratulatory tweet
recognizing Malkin’s achievement revisited the
obvious omission from two years prior:
“Mr. 101” … “Aaaand not in the NHL Top 100….” …
“#NHL100 (wink face).”
Luckily for the Penguins and their fans, Malkin
uses those slights as motivation to be even better.
When he wasn’t named one the greatest players,
a disappointed Malkin declared that he needed to
win more awards. That spring, he won his third Cup,
leading the playoffs in scoring to become just the
fourth player in NHL history to win three Stanley
Cups, lead the NHL in playoff scoring twice AND
capture at least one Conn Smythe Trophy. He joined
Wayne Gretzky, Bryan Trottier and Guy Lafleur in
Malkin’s numbers have only risen following his
NHL 100 omission. Since play resumed after the
2017 All-Star weekend, Malkin’s 0.56 goals-per-game
average is tied with Matthews for best in the
NHL, while Malkin’s average of 1.26 points per
game is second-best in the league, trailing only
Hockey is nowhere near as numbers-oriented
as baseball. But like any sport, hockey does have a
select few numbers that carry a heavier significance
than the rest. For skaters, those magical digits are
1,000 games played, 1,000 points and 500 goals.
Later this season, Evgeni Malkin projects to
reach the 1,000-point plateau, a feat that only four
Russians before him have accomplished. Maybe
once Malkin joins the likes of Sergei Fedorov, Alex
Ovechkin, Alexander Mogilny and Alexei Kovalev, the
stars will align for the Penguins’ superstar to enjoy
his well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Malkin’s current contract runs through the
2021-22 season. By the sounds of his comments to
reporters during this past training camp, he wants
to call PPG Paints Arena home for longer than that.
Although such an arrangement would take him
deep into his 30s, Malkin has lofty goals for himself,
Sidney Crosby and their team.
“I don’t want to be a guy who wins three Cups
and stops playing,” Malkin said. “I want to be a good
player the next 5-6 years. I try to do my best to
dominate every game.
“I hope that we will win a couple more Stanley
Cups. We try to every year. Sid is an unbelievable
player. I look to him every day. He is still hungry, he
works hard every day… I try to be the same way.
“I want to be a top-10
player in this league for
the next five years.”
continued from page 27