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Pens Push: Sickly awesome goals, Malkin’s comeback, and what sunshine might mean for CrosbyWatch.

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Some quick hits after the Penguins’ 6-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday:

So, clearly, describing goals is not my strength as a hockey scribe. (Hold the tee-em-up jokes, eh?) Anyway, keeping my limitations in mind, some of what Penguins players had to say about the gems on this night from C Evgeni Malkin, D Kris Letang and Avalanche C Matt Duchene

– “Very nice goal. I liked it. He’s an awesome player. Pretty goal. I think it was better (than mine).”

Malkin, on Duchene’s dazzler in the first period

– “If Geno’s goal doesn’t make the (SportsCenter) Top 10 tonight, I don’t know what does. Just incredible skill. So much talent. It was fun to watch.”

LW Matt Cooke on Malkin’s third-period magic marker

– “I didn’t see it because my back was turned. But when I passed it to him, I knew he would do something cool with the puck. And he did.”

RW James Neal, on Malkin’s third-period goal

 

= Avalanche coach Joe Sacco was not pleased to have faced killing seven Penguins’ power plays.

“I didn’t think the game was that lopsided where the disparity should have been 7-2,” he said. “I thought it was a pretty even game.”

Not sure I disagree with Sacco.

About those power plays for the Penguins; somebody, please, figure out how to send a pass to Malkin’s left skate for a one timer. I promise whoever does won’t be disappointed too often.

 

= The Penguins were credited with only one giveaway in the first period. Anybody who watched this game is probably laughing after reading that last sentence. Even Penguins players were amazed at the statistic.

“I would classify it as probably our first period of the season,” Cooke said.

Added coach Dan Bylsma: “There were things about the game that ate at me. I didn’t quite enjoy the Duchene goal. The Malkin goal, and the sequence leading up to the goal, is what we needed from that line. That shift is how we want to play. It was an exceptional goal. I think we’re going to see that one again on the plays of the week.”

 

= Cooke laughed and offered “I hope so” when I suggested Malkin is about to go on a tear. My running game story – the one I file as soon as the game ends, which in the case of this game was dramatically different from the one you will read online Wednesday – focused almost entirely on Malkin’s past few games. An expert from that running gamer:

“If we want to just talk about last game,” Bylsma said, referencing the Penguins’ 5-3 loss at Carolina last Saturday night, “Evgeni Malkin had 13 scoring chances for us. That’s an outrageous number.”

Outrageous numbers are the expectation for Malkin – twice a scorer of more than 100 points in a season, a former single-season point leader and playoff MVP.

However he has not produced at an outrageous rate since a magical two-season run that began with his ascension to among the NHL’s elite players in January 2008 and capped with him drawing praise as the best player on the Penguins club that won the Stanley Cup in June 2009.

Injuries marred each of his past two seasons. Most notably he could not finish last season after tearing ligaments in his right knee in February.

An exhaustive rehabilitation of that knee and Malkin’s acknowledged improved focus on training over the summer sparked talk in the hockey world that he would regain his standing as a dominant, game-changing force.

Or, put another way: There were expectations for Malkin to again be a player worthy of the annually commanding a salary that, like Crosby’s number, counts $8.7 million against the Penguins’ salary cap.

That Malkin took the ice last night against the Avalanche.

This game was 32 seconds old when Malkin rushed up the right side of the ice and left a couple of Avalanche skaters in his dust only to ring a hard shot off the crossbar behind Avalanche goalie and fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov.

The Avalanche, owner of an outstanding 6-2-1 road record before this contest, led 3-1 before Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis changed momentum with a rebound marker, his fourth, midway through the second period.

Malkin had attempted four shots, misfiring on two, entering the final period – but he sharply fed defenseman Brooks Orpik, who pulled the Penguins even, 3-3, early in the third.

About three and a half minutes later Malkin took a pass from right winger James Neal, who is on a seven-game point streak. As Malkin received the puck he deked Avalanche left winger Gabriel Landenskog before working his way toward the slot and burying a shot behind Varlamov as he fell to the ice.

Malkin did not smile after scoring.

The look on his face seemed to suggest this was his comeback.

I still cannot shake that thought, by the way. Prediction time: This game will be the start of Malkin dominating the final five months of this regular season.

If I’m right, C Sidney Crosby can take all the time he needs.

By the way: I will not be shocked if Crosby plays on the Florida trip, and I am not alone among those who will not be shocked. This is the annual fathers’ trip, and in terms of media attention all will be relatively quiet compared to him returning in Pittsburgh. This is just a guess on my end, but I can tell you a lot of people are also making this guess behind the scenes.

 

= Full disclosure, I’m not often right on predictions – see: Neal scoring only 17 goals this season. He has 12. With every goal that he scores beyond 17 I am donating $10 to a charity of his choice. This may change the car I choose to lease from my uncle’s dealership, Oliverio Buick, because I figure to have considerably less cash in a few months.

Speaking of shameless family plugs, a hearty congrats to that uncle’s daughter, Katie Oliverio. She was a first-team all-WPIAL selection for volleyball because of her strong play for Bishop Canevin’s girls squad. She will hate reading this, which is half the reason I am writing it.

 

Cheers,

Rossi

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Bobby says:

    I have said this since Geno\\\’s rookie season: I think when he is on top of his game, he is actually BETTER than Crosby. Call me crazy, but that\\\’s my opinion.

  2. rosko says:

    @ bobby I totally agree with your comment…Malkin is a complete beast when is he playing his best. He can physically dominate a game a way that crosby cant..with that said, Sid is the better player due to his consistency…let’s just hope we get a healthy Sid back soon and maybe just maybe Geno might finally get it!!! Go Pens!

  3. Mark says:

    You’re not kidding about those awful one-time passes on the power play to Malkin. And most of them are coming from Letang. He (Letang) is an awesome talent and has become part of this team’s core of elite players….but his inability to feed the one-timer on the PP is a weakness in his game and it hurts the power play.

  4. Tim says:

    Geno’s a great player, but he’s also often a giveaway machine. Until he stops leaving drop passes for the other team, you can’t compare him to players like Sid. That’s one of the worst things about that Euro-style of play.

  5. Jeremy says:

    indeed bobby, geno has boatloads of natural talent. sid has work ethic and determination. there were minutes in the late first and early second, even a few in the third that had my friend an I wondering if geno was hurt or just tired. he just seemed incredibly lazy for a couple shifts tonight. I think that’s the difference as well. maybe he burns himself out during a game, or get moody or something. dunno. when he’s hot, he’s everywhere and looking like a beast. when not, he seems lazy and disinterested. on the other hand, sid makes up for his (supposed) lack of natural talent by working very hard every off-season, focusing on missing parts of his game, e.g., terrible on faceoffs—works on it and comes back to be a top10 FO%, weak shot (save for that wicked backhand)—works on it and comes back with a ripping slapper and within a year is on a 60+ goal pace… he never seems to take a shift off.

    I’m equally excited by both guys, and realize that the nature of people shows on the ice as well. if were were as gifted as geno, I’d be a little down when things weren’t coming together too. can’t wait for sid to come back. that said, I’d be fine with it being 2012 if geno can go a month or two or more looking like he did most of the second and third last night.

    and btw, congrats Katie!

  6. FJS says:

    Can we please just stop the speculation on Sidney Crosby’s return? He will play when he plays. Fueling the rabid (sickening) media attention with more needles speculation is useless.
    I honestly don’t think that the Penguins are hiding anything, and we do need to respect the confidentiality between a Doctor and a patient.

  7. GMT says:

    It appears the Pens are holding Crosby out until they are down 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Highly doubt he’ll be coming back on the Florida trip.

  8. Pensfan says:

    Rossi,
    You are starting to appear creepier than *Pierre* with your mancrush on Geno. Get over it.

    First, the coach and Pen’s organization were praising Asham for standing up in the room and turning the tide in the game…not Geno or Staal.

    Second, Neal, not Geno, was voted first star, and widely praised by most everyone as being the games driving force…not Geno or Staal.

    Third. Orpik, with his once a season goal, started turning the tide to victory for the Pens. not Geno or Staal.

    Fourth. You fail to credit the PENS TEAM for this victory… this game was a true TEAM victory. Not a Geno victory. Not a Staal victory. They won because the TEAM scored a record number of goals, and the TEAM out worked the Avs. Geno just happened to score the forth goal which was the game winner.

    Don’t understand why all your articles need to:
    a. push Geno into a role you want him to fill. Geno is a great player. Bylsma has talked about Geno’s need to play a better team game. Once he does that with consistency, he will be a more complete player. Geno will not demonstate that by ‘going on a tear’ or ‘dominating play.’ That is not how you win Championships. (just ask Ovechkin).
    b. Obsess about the Pen’s ‘team leadership.’ Looking back over your body of work, you have ascribed ‘leadership’ to Orpik, Staal, Geno, Letang, Kunitz, Adams et al. and do so in a way that is mostly a slam toward the teams Captain. GET OVER IT. Most everyone on the Pens team is a leader of some sort. Do we really have to hear about it after every game. It’s as silly as sports announcers proclaiming each game that so and so is the BEST blah blah blah and just scored the goal of the season blah blah blah….only to say the same thing about a new player next game.
    c. Stop with the Crosby rumors. Listening to your radio /sports overtime etc verbage over the summer/fall, you kept going on about how “Sid may just be confused at this point about what is a concussion symptom and what is just a normal headache.” and “Sid may just need to play a game to really judge himself” Only to hear from Sid and his doctors Sept 7 that Sid was no where near a return. That Sid had serious symptoms in April, May and during the summer. He was spatially disoriented as late as August/Sept. Clearly you were spouting off opinions about Sid and his health with no real information or clue about his status.

    In the future, just be silent please.

  9. Dave says:

    The Pens have brough Mcintyre back up correct? if so I see no other reason other than Sid is about to play. As an open ice talent, I agree Geno is better than Sid, Sid can do more of the grinding stuff that Geno is not willing or able to do…..in totality SId is bit better than Geno…it will be great to have them both on the ice again sometime soon

  10. sjb says:

    Since I don’t live in Pittsburgh, I love the attention he’s getting. Until he comes back, every Pens game will be nationally televised. I hope he doesn’t come back until February. I do like the extra half hour they schedule before the game at 7:00 that they want to use to talk about Crosby’s great return and then need to fill it with everything else before the game starts at 7:30. Versus… what a joke. I’m assuming the Panthers game will be national too…don’t want to miss the possible Crosby drama, lol.

  11. Captain America says:

    Remember when Rossi raved about Michalek and Martin and told us what a genius Shero was because of it? Yeah, right. How much does Mario pay him to write this drivel, anyway?

  12. Jay Walker says:

    Like I said years ago — take away Sid, and we’re the Phoenix Coyotes.

  13. Eric says:

    Why do they even have Mcintyre? Engelland can handle anybody and it just takes a spot away.
    Ironic the pens gave up two PP goals and Park was a scratch.
    He is big and a brutal fighter but that is it, not much skill.
    Park is one of their better PK guys. Not a smart move by management against TB who’s PP was hurting but still tons of skill.

  14. Bobby Beer Temple says:

    Where’s our dynasty?

  15. Christian says:

    Jay, seriously? ‘Take away Sid and we’re the Phoenix Coyotes?’ Are you one of those guys who says something to elicit emotional responses? C’mon, keep the posts logical.

 
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