Pittsburgh Penguins Desperately Need Evgeni Malkin To Step Up His Game

Dominic ErricoCorrespondent INovember 4, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 16:  Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 16, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The struggles of the starting goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins have been well documented early in the 2010-2011 NHL season. However, a higher profile superstar has been playing much worse.

Evgeni Malkin is easily having the worst season of his young NHL career.  His stat line so far this year projects out to 19 goals and 38 assists for a total of 57 points.  He also projects out to a minus-25.  Awful numbers for such a highly priced superstar.

Even last year, when he only played in 67 games, he still put up 28 goals and 49 assists.

He looks lost out there, routinely getting behind opponents going the other way on breakaways and odd man breaks, and he has yet to score a power play goal this season. 

His lackluster play has affected all facets of his game.  Look at his lame attempt on the penalty shot a few weeks ago against Toronto.  It was like he wasn’t even trying.

I can’t imagine this is the kind of production that the Penguins are looking for from their superstar.  Is the loss of fellow countryman Sergei Gonchar affecting his game worse than we thought it would?  I think we need only look at the Penguin power play to see the answer.   

Malkin and Sidney Crosby seem to prefer making the perfect pass instead of making a play to score a goal.  The power play has been an awful 0-26, and they haven’t scored a power play goal in six straight games.  It ranks 26th in the league, which is completely inexcusable for a team that features two of the best offensive talents in the league on the unit.

It is certainly possible that Malkin is just uncomfortable on the wing and belongs back at his natural position of center, which we saw him return to in the game against Dallas.  Perhaps a silver lining in the hand injury to Jordan Staal' is that Malkin will now return to a more comfortable position. 

Regardless of what is bothering Geno, the Penguins desperately need him to get back on track, if they are going to go anywhere this season. 

There's no reason to think this slump will continue all season, but while he's off his game, so are the Penguins.

I’ve seen him when he’s on top of his game, and he’s an unstoppable force. 

Right now, he’s anything but.