Sharing My Appreciation for Evgeni Malkin When Others Won't

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

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Pittsburgh Penguin fans have been a spoiled bunch. They spent a large portion of time during the Mario Lemieux era dominating teams and winning championships. Then, save for Sidney Crosby’s rookie season, the Penguins have made the postseason every single year. They’ve added three more titles in Crosby’s era. That’s longevity.

I am currently 22 years old. My entire Penguins fandom - essentially the beginning of Sidney Crosby’s career - is filled with winning and playoff appearances. I’m admittedly a spoiled brat when it comes to the Penguins.  They have spoiled us all with great, championship winning, hockey for a long, long time.  

The neat thing about both of these eras is that the main cog had a superstar sidekick. Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were the old time duo. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the current duo. Jagr was beloved and adored by fans just as Malkin has been embraced in the current era.

However, ever since the Penguins won their second Stanley Cup, it seems like the most prominent discussion every offseason ends up being whether or not the Penguins should trade Evgeni Malkin. Admittedly, I’ve shamefully taken part in those talks from time to time. The hockey offseason is long and lonely when the Penguins don’t lift the Stanley Cup.

Instead of calling for Malkin to be traded, maybe we should all just start to appreciate him for everything he’s done in Pittsburgh.  Stop trying to send him to another team just to wear a uniform that wouldn’t look right on him.

The Penguins’ championship triumph in 2008-09’ does not happen without Malkin. He put on the most dominant stretch of games that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime for a Penguin, both regular season and postseason. In just 24 games, Malkin had 36 points. That’s absurd.

Just to make sure we highlight Crosby too, he recorded 31 points in that same postseason. That makes for 67 points between two players in 24 games. Take that in.

Getting back to Geno, not a single player since had come close to performing anything similar to his 08-09 postseason stretch until fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov had 32 points in 2017-18 when the Capitals finally won their Stanley Cup. Then another fellow Russian, Nikita Kucherov, posted 34 points in the Lightning’s first of back-to-back Stanley Cup’s in 2019-20’.

There are only six other playoff stretches better than Evgeni Malkin’s. Four of them belong to Wayne Gretzky, one of them to Lemieux, and the other one is Paul Coffey. That’s a pretty noteworthy list to be a member of.

In watching Geno over the years, he’s one of the most exciting players to watch in the league. I’ve seen him flip a switch before that few others on this planet have.  Crosby has always been considered the better overall player. He’s always had the talent that has consistently seen him labeled as the best player in the league until Connor McDavid rightfully took over that title. But when Malkin got mad or just wanted to take over a game, there was almost no one that could be as dominant as him.

Malkin has also been a massive part of all three Cups in this era. He’s handled being the second fiddle to Crosby his entire career better than anyone could’ve ever imagined before his career in Pittsburgh started. 

Geno has scored 12 hat-tricks in his NHL career. He has 1104 points in 940 career games. This was supposed to be the year he hit the 1,000 career games plateau, a milestone Crosby hit last season and received a nice pregame ceremony for doing so. Unfortunately, offseason knee surgery has kept Malkin out of the lineup so far this season.  

Soon, Malkin will return to the lineup for the first time this season. At 36 years old, everyone will be curious to see if he’s going to come back as a dominant player or if the knee surgery is going to slow him down.

At his press availability on Wednesday, Malkin was jovial and said his knee felt “200% stronger” than it did previously. He also said he would like to play some time next week, assuming the Penguins return to play. Here’s hoping they do.

Malkin is in the final season of his contract. There’s no guarantee he returns next season, but the hope is that he will. Considering their success and the difficulty of keeping star players together for their entire careers, the Penguins should do everything they can to make sure he and Crosby finish their careers in Pittsburgh. Malkin going elsewhere and wearing a different colored sweater just isn’t something that should happen.

I’m excited as a fan to see Malkin playing games again but I’m just as excited for Malkin to come back simply because I know he misses playing hockey. There aren’t many more heart warming things than seeing Evgeni Malkin happy, and smiling and joking around with the media.

Evgeni Malkin, I appreciate you. Those in Pittsburgh that still don’t understand the impact you’ve had on this franchise should probably start to appreciate you as well, before it’s too late.