Evgeni Malkin's disappointment after Canada's dominating 7-3 Olympic victory over his Russian team on Wednesday night was apparent. His frustration over his tumultuous season with the Pittsburgh Penguins has been just as evident.
Geno's season has been far from a disaster (sitting 12th in league scoring and eighth in assists would be a career year for most NHLers), but also nowhere near his Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy campaign from a year ago.
Besides his shoulder injury that he sustained in early November, Malkin's season has been marred by costly turnovers, untimely and unnecessary penalties, and an outwardly noticeable lack of confidence at times.
He needs to channel this latest setback at the Olympic games into a positive approach for the final twenty games of the Penguins regular season and into (and through) the playoffs.
Hopefully, Evgeni will look at his team’s underachieving effort in Vancouver and not want his Pens to suffer a similar fate during the NHL’s second season.
Malkin is much too valuable to Pittsburgh's repeat hopes to continue along at this inconsistent and often lackluster pace and you can tell from his words, however broken his English may be, that he realizes this.
When Geno is on top of his game he brings emotion, determination, and two-way effort on every shift. This superstar version of Malkin has been missing in action, for whatever reason, far too often throughout the 2009-2010 season.
A player such as Malkin can have several on-ice and/or off-ice reasons for struggling through all or part of a season.
He is human just like the rest of us (although it seems he often performs some super-human feats) and may sometimes let outside issues get in the way of his performance as a professional.
There is also the possibility of an unknown nagging or lingering injury that he may have sustained that will not be disclosed publicly until after the Penguins season.
Whether Malkin’s issues have been off-ice, on-ice or both is irrelevant, but the reemergence of the player who scored that scintillating backhander against Carolina in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals certainly is not.
Ray Shero can work all the magic he can muster at the trade deadline, but without a driven and confident Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins' quest to keep Lord Stanley in Pittsburgh will come to an abrupt and unpleasant end.