Head Start: Evgeni Malkin Ahead in Conn Smythe Race

Nino CollaSenior Writer IApril 10, 2008

Foolish me, I could have posted this yesterday breathed in all the credit for making an outstanding pick.

No matter, last night's first round game between Ottawa and Pittsburgh only reaffirmed my pick to win the Conn Smythe trophy at the end of the playoffs.

Why go in any other direction?

The Penguins are the hottest team in the East, and Evgeni Malkin has been their constant from the start.

He plays on one of the most productive lines in the entire league and his skills in both passing and scoring have been displayed in the first game.

He helped set up a Gary Roberts goal on the power play, showing he will not only play on them but get the job done.

Malkin also had a big assists to line mate Peter Sykora in the first period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

Then he pretty much iced the game in the third period with a goal of his own.

What is there not to love about Evgeni Malkin and the way he is playing?

There has literally been a streaking flame coming out from his back for the past few months, it was Malkin that kept the Penguins afloat when captain Sidney Crosby was out for an extended period.

Even though Crosby is back, Malkin hasn't slowed down; if anything he is even more dangerous playing on a line with a healthy Peter Sykora and Ryan Malone, who is having a career year.

Pittsburgh looks like it is well on their way to sending the Senators home after the physical and mental beat-down that they put on them. After that it is a jumbled Eastern conference.

Their goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury is just as smoking as Malkin is. This supports the fact that the Penguins could take it all the way to the finals. In the past, hot goalie play has led to Stanley Cup victories.

Gary Roberts after last night looks like a man on a mission. I think he might be tired of waiting to get his hands on the cup. That can't possibly hurt Malkin's chances in anyway.

This isn't a science, if you want to pick the right guy; you have to pick the hottest player from the hottest team.

It may be a head start because of the game last night, but the only logical choice at this point is Evgeni Malkin.