ATTENTION NHL: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin Are Hitting Full Stride
Take it to headquarters - "Air Raid, Mellon Arena."
This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. We need your undivided attention.
For the first six weeks of the season, the names Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have gone missing at the top of the NHL's point leaders, for various reasons. Crosby's wingers have been disappointing to say the least, with Chris Kunitz on the Injured Reserve and Bill Guerin only bothering to show up to the rink once every fortnight.
As for Malkin, he's been on the shelf himself, having missed a couple weeks with a bruised shoulder.
A rather shocking occurrence, as it's been some time since one of those two names hasn't been at the top of the scoring race for the Art Ross Trophy. But honestly, you didn't expect Nos. 71 and 87 to give up their chase for the scoring crown that easily did you?
On Saturday night, there was a full-fledged air raid at the old Mellon Arena, triggered by Captain Crosby's performance. The Penguins' marketing team couldn't have done a better job choosing the game with the New York Rangers to be "Hat Night", and no sooner were the hats passed out, they rained back down to the ice.
Crosby and Malkin are hitting full stride, as the Rangers found out the hard way in an 8-3 annihilation.
Crosby completed his fourth career hat trick, second of the season, and finished the night with five points after dishing out primary assists on Malkin and Max Talbot goals. Malkin, who put up less gaudy numbers, still finished with a goal and an assist. Both of the points came even-strength with Crosby.
For the record, the point explosion has Crosby vaulted right into the mix of the scoring race with 30 points, good enough for sixth place. Malkin has points in six straight games and 11 total in eight since his return to the lineup on Nov. 14.
But it's not how the point totals, it's how and when the two-headed monster are producing.
Sidney Crosby has his limitations as a goal scorer. He knows that and is completely fine with that fact. Most of his goals will come from around the net mouth, off deflections or rebounds. Many players would call these "garbage" goals, but a goal is a goal no matter how it finds it's way to the net.
However, he can not score from anywhere on the ice, like an Alexander Ovechkin may be able to do.
But, as the constant professional that he is, he is always looking for ways to improve his game. With the assistance of Sergei Gonchar, who happens to have a darn effective slapshot himself, Crosby has worked diligently to improve his slapper. While he has yet to score with the shot, he has made opponents respect it, dropping back on the power play to block it.
This has opened up what seems like acres of space on the ice for him.
In the last couple games alone, he has scored three times from range with an accurate snap shot, none more apparent than his hat trick goal. Taking a pass from newly returned defenseman Alex Goligoski , Crosby wound up for a slap shot, freezing a Ranger defender in his steps to give himself the extra time and space to measure up his dart of a wrist shot.
And that's not even mentioning his play on Malkin's goal. Working with his bread and butter behind the cage, he outmuscled Matt Gilroy, relieved him of the puck and flicked it out for No. 71 to poke home.
He may not be the most complete goal scorer, but the NHL's most complete player is still adding new pieces to his game.
As for Evgeni Malkin, many speculated that he may not be at 100 percent even after coming off the injury. Which in reality, isn't a fair thing to say.
Since returning, Malkin's stat line looks like such: 4 goals, 7 assists, +8 rating, 32 shots on goal. Does that sound like a slump? Just because Malkin has not utterly dominated a game like he did in the Eastern Conference Finals, doesn't mean he is in a slump or less than 100 percent.
He's got 11 points since returning and only two of those have come on the power play. In each of his first three NHL seasons, Malkin has registered 40, 40 and 41 points on the man advantage, a mark he is well short of matching on his current pace.
However, the Penguins power play looked 40 times more dangerous on Saturday night with a full compliment of players on the ice.
Not only did the unit score twice against the Rangers, it would have scored four or five had it not been for the solid early play of Steve Valiquette .
Malkin will no doubt be leading the power play into December, as his role has improved. Earlier in the season, he would be stationed on the right half wall, with the option to shoot or pass. Now, he has been moving all over the ice, from down low, to the point, to flying across the middle. Opposing penalty killers have no idea where he's going next.
They say knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is a major disadvantage in hockey.
For good or better, the two-headed monster of Crosby and Malkin is starting to click on all cylinders. Don't blink, or they might just be leading the league in scoring once again.
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