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Rossi: A deeper dig into Malkin’s slump

A good morning to the Dear Readers from a soon-to-be rainy New York City, where somebody is sticking around to spend time at the NHL headquarters for a couple of down-the-road pieces.

Josh “the Instinctive One” Yohe has the club Thursday, as the Penguins will practice at Southpointe Iceoplex. Perhaps an optional session, though coach Dan Bylsma’s tone after a 5-1 loss to the Rangers at MSG was hardly the most upbeat one.


= The #TribHKY recap of that loss:


Overreacting to one loss – as the Penguins people on Twitterverse seems to be doing –­ is unwise, though not unexpected. A great goalie can do damage to even the most superior opponent, and New York’s Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves; 10 in the first 15 minutes) did that to the Penguins, who remain one of only two Metropolitan Division clubs with more wins than combined losses and overtime/shootout results.

Still, this Evgeni Malkin slump is a real concern.

(Clearly, as was evident by the direction of that Game Story – and coach Dan Bylsma’s acknowledgment that it is a factor going forward.)

Malkin declined comment Wednesday night after a ninth consecutive game without a goal.

Do not read too much into that, as Malkin is not one to speak daily or after every game.

That said, for as much as a reporter can, this reporter feels he is best positioned to read Malkin’s nonverbal signals, and the ones he is sending are disconcerting. He appears completely flummoxed over his inability to dominate – and the read here is this is not just about the 3 goals-14 points start to this season.

Malkin has 47 points in 47 games since wrapping an MVP season that was the result of 50 goals and 109 points in 75 games – a 1.45 points-per-game average.

Malkin will need to average at least 1.30 points-per-game the rest of this season to hit the 100-point plateau for a fourth time.

He is capable, but this current pace through 16 games (.875) is a far cry from his 12th all-time 1.21 per-game pace.

Something to keep in mind about Malkin, who is now 27:

Of the eight players to win multiple scoring titles since in the post expansion era (1967-68 to current), only one – Boston’s Phil Esposito – posted either his first or second best season after the age of 27.

Malkin takes things to heart. His care-level (coach speak) is off the charts.

This slump is not about him not trying or failing to grasp the system or any of the each jabs that his detractors throw at him and Russian players in general.

This slump is about something deep, and a huge challenge for Bylsma is to figure out how to help Malkin stick with his recent responsible play even though individual results are not coming.

The good news for Malkin is that things seemingly cannot get much worse than this start.

The best news is that help is apparently on the way:


A busy day for radio hits: Penguins Live with Steve Kolbe (3:20 p.m.,; the Mark Madden Show (3:30 p.m., 105.9-FM); the David Todd Show (6:30 p.m., 970-AM).



Be Excellent to each other,


Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib


  1. Matt says:

    He is pressing to live up to his Contract. It’s admirable, but he just needs to be himself. There are many players and coaches that study his game and work hard to stop him, nobody can dominate in the League night in and night out. Well, maybe Mario could. :)

  2. Tim says:

    Responsible play? You mean the kind of play that resembles a (-3) performance so far this season? Plus/Minus is often an over-valued statistic, but Malkin’s number happens to be the second worst on the team at this stage. The stat is no longer meaningless when the guy getting paid the most is near the worst.

    Sadly, Malkin’s 2013 playoff performance was just as bad in that category. A player that skilled should not be on the ice for so many goals against and, particularly, ones that are the direct result of his own turnovers. Add his lack of offensive production on top of his routinely irresponsible play and the result is (currently) a highly overpaid, high-risk, low-reward commodity. Not hatin’… Just sayin’…

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