Only in rare cases does four points in five games raise an eyebrow in concern.
But when you’re Evgeni Malkin, things are just different.
The Russian superstar has been held without a goal in the last five games. His trio of assists against Colorado on Dec. 3 combined with another against Chicago a week ago are the only points he has registered in the last five contests.
Malkin has been caught passing in situations he would normally shoot, and in Pittsburgh’s recent 3-2 win at Montreal, passed up on four different opportunities in which he had an open look to shoot. In each situation he passed and in each situation the result was nothing.
“Sometimes, in trying to make the right play, he might look to pass when his confidence is lower,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “He is a guy who attacks, attacks through the defense and attacks the net. When he is shooting the puck he is a threat to score and he is a better player all around. Getting him focused in the right direction is what he is trying to do right now.”
Malkin had written his reputation as the Penguins premiere goal scorer, scoring 33, 47 and 35 goals in his first three seasons. Sidney Crosby wrote a different reputation for himself, being the team’s distributor with over 100 assists in three of his first four seasons.
Now, it seems, those roles have changed. Crosby is by far the team’s leading goal scorer with 20 goals and Malkin leads Crosby by four assists for the team lead (21) in that category.
Such doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but with the Penguins recent struggles on the power play, goals haven’t been as easy to come by. That’s why Bylsma wants Malkin to adopt his old attitude.
“I would be more apt to say he could take page from what Sidney is doing right now in terms of having that shooter’s mentality and ripping the puck,” Bylsma said. “That has developed in practice. That is also the mentality you bring to the rink and you know ‘I am going to be a shooter tonight.’ Then, when you get those situations you shoot the puck.”
The power play is now on a 7-for-80 streak and is clicking at a season-low 14 percent. For Malkin — who has scored four of his eight goals this season with the man-advantage — that doesn’t help. No other player on the team has a higher percentage of his goals come from the power play.
The fact that regular linemate, Ruslan Fedotenko, is a minus seven and hasn’t scored since Nov. 12 — that’s 13 games — doesn’t help either.
Malkin had another five-game goalless streak this season from Oct. 23-Nov. 16. He came out of that with goals in back-to-back games, which he has done just twice all year.
Geno went 10 games without a goal at one point last season — the only time all season of more than five games without a goal. It was the longest such streak of his career and he still went on to lead the league in scoring.
“Geno has always been a guy that when you bring it to his attention he knows it is a focus,” Bylsma said. “You see him getting better. He spent some time on video with our coaches and he is aware of it. It’s not something I see him taking with him for too long.
“He is going to come out attacking and shooting. That is what he is going to bring with him tomorrow when he comes to the rink.”
Chris | PPT