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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 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.

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