The motivation for Evgeni Malkin is motivation.
That drive, initiative and incentive paid off when the 25-year-old native of Magnitogorsk, Russia captured the Hart Memorial Trophy Wednesday night as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Malkin is the fourth Penguin to win the Hart and follows Mario Lemieux (1988, 1993, 1996), Jaromir Jagr (1999) and Sidney Crosby (2007) with this award.
In improving English, Malkin said he was grateful for the award and merely smiled, “it’s just great to get this.”
Not that Malkin took the entire weight of the Penguins upon his shoulders, two factors help drive and fuel his increasing high energy level.
When he was injured two years ago, that was a great motivating force to regain a certain playing level and maintain that level,” said Dan Bylsma, the Penguins coach. “He has great motivation and is a motivated player. Plus, he’s bully on the ice. He’ll run through people and around people with power.
With the Penguins going most of the season without Crosby, Malkin stepped in and wore his team’s emotion on his sleeve. In the process, the 6'3", 195-pounder scored 50 assists, assisted on 59 others for a league-leading 109 points. That was 12 points better than runner-up Stamkos, who lit the red lamp 60 times and assisted on 37 for 97 points.
Numbers aside, Malkin says winning the Stanley Cup is the paramount objective on the Penguins' radar screen.
“If we’re healthy, and everyone is playing together, we can win the Cup every year,” he said. “I love this game but winning the Cup would be special.”
Perhaps easier said than done. Most pundits point to a significant run by the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, but history is cruel.
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions in nearly 15 years, so Malkin’s projection could be a real possibility. The last team to repeat was the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings. Lest we forget, the 2010 Cup winner Boston Bruins were knocked out in the opening round this past spring.
In other awards from Wednesday night, Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis won the Jack Adams Award as coach-of-the-year; Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak of the Blues won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed; Stamkos won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award for the most goals; Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie-of-the-year; Doug Armstrong of the Blues was the General Manager of the Year; Patrice Bergeron of Boston took the Frank Selke Award as the best defensive forward; Max Pacioretty of Montreal won the Bill Masterton Award for dedication and sportsmanship; Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa took the King Clancy Memorial Award for leadership on and off the ice; Mike Fisher of Nashville took the NHL Foundation Award for community service; Shane Doan of Phoenix won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award for leadership on and off the ice; Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers took the Lady Byng for sportsmanship, and the first defenseman to win this award since the Red Wings’ Red Kelly in 1951; and Hendrik Lindqvist of the Rangers captured the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.