A look at the Polarizing Evgeni Malkin, Credits Sidney Crosby For Latest Surge by @MadChad412 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Monday, March 24, 2014

A look at the Polarizing Evgeni Malkin, Credits Sidney Crosby For Latest Surge by @MadChad412

Polarizing: "To cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups". When it comes to professional sports figures, it's really not hard to do to that, especially in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby, Ben Roethlisberger, Terry Bradshaw, Jaromir Jagr, these guys and many more would certainly be associated with the word polarizing. Perhaps, Pittsburgh Penguins' center, Evgeni Malkin, is the most polarizing player on the current roster.

Fans, writers, bloggers, radio hosts, most people who discuss and analyze Malkin seem to go way overboard when it comes to praise and criticism. When Malkin is playing great, you'll see Malkin get praised so much, that people will go to suggest that he's the best player in the world, even better than Crosby. When Malkin goes into a slump, people call him lazy, overpaid, and even overrated, which is hilariously misinformed. I understand that our current social society, mostly thanks to 24/7 coverage and social media, is like this with all subjects, not just Malkin. However, when it comes to the Pittsburgh sport's scene, Malkin certainly seems to be the most debated player.

The "lazy" narrative that Malkin has been labeled with is laughable. It is perhaps the worst observation that the yinzers have created in a long time. You don't have the kind of career that Malkin is having by being a "Lazy Russian". It's not even just fans saying it either, as local radio hosts and sports writers have joined that bandwagon as well. Sure, Malkin has some nights where he doesn't look so great, perhaps even gliding on the ice. He's not the first player to do that and he's not the last. 

Hell, even Crosby does it from time to time. 

The worst part of this discussion, at least among Pens' fans, is that it almost always ends up being a pissing contest between a really weird group of pro-Crosby anti-Malkin people versus pro-Malkin anti-Crosby people. There are some fans that seem to actually become jealous of either Crosby or Malkin, which ever player that they prefer. If an announcer or journalist praises one without the other, the other's fan-base actually becomes upset, and will even start to bash the other player.  I have no idea why certain fans would use so much energy to fight with fans of the same damn team, over two players that are extreme close and have done so much good for the franchise. 

Malkin is the second best player on the Penguins. There is no debating that. Croasby is the best player in the league, and Crosby is the more consistent player out of the two. Some people will try to argue that Malkin is better, and that's fine, but the statistics do weigh in Crosby's favor. Hell, Malkin even gave Crosby most of the credit for his latest surge. Malkin has six points his last three games, including a four-point game in a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. After the game, Malkin credited Crosby for being a great leader and teammate, helping him get through his post-Olympics slump. 

Malkin's performance is vital to this team's success. The Pens are 8-6 this season when he fails to produce a point, and 1-7 when both he and Crosby fail to tally a point in the same game. Going back to last year's playoffs, the Pens are 1-12 when both Crosby and Malkin fail to get at least one point. Malkin is a former Hart Trophy winner, two-time scoring champion, and Conn Smythe winner. The Pens are nowhere near as deep as they use to be thanks to the salary cap and the high salaries of both Malkin and Crosby. 

I would like to see Malkin try to hit the consistency that Crosby has been able to achieve. Crosby has not gone three-straight games without a point all season. Malkin has gone without a point in four of his last six games, including a three-game stretch just last week. Malkin also failed to score a goal in sixteen-straight games during the months of October and November. While points are points, players that make the kind of money that Malkin makes ($8.5 million cap-hit this season). 

Despite not being as consistent Crosby, it's really hard to criticize Malkin. Despite missing 11 games, Malkin is sixth in the NHL in scoring  and only trails Crosby and Steven Stamkos in points-per-game. Since he's been the in the league, Malkin trails only Crosby in career points-per-game among active players. Take into consideration that Malkin has also been without winger James Neal for more than 20 games this season. That has impacted both of their statistics for sure. 

The way Malkin played against the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning is obviously the way the Pens need to him to play in order to succeed in the postseason. Malkin is playing with a ton of confidence right now, you can see that on the ice, and in the stat line. It's been pointed out by others but you can truly tell when Malkin is playing his best hockey when he's shooting the puck as much as possible. Malkin had 12 shots combined in the two games against the Red Wings and Lightning. He had six points in those two games. In the three games prior, Malkin had a combined 10 shots and zero points. 

Does Malkin occasionally have a bad turnover? Yes. Does Malkin occasionally glide when he's back-checking? Yes. That hasn't been the case for most of this season though. Malkin's defensive numbers have improved from last year, and for the most part, Malkin has been very good when it comes to back-checking this season. Some of that can actually be

If the Pens are going to have any chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year, it's going to need both Malkin and Crosby to be at the top of their games . Malkin needs to find that consistent level mixed with the aggressiveness that he's show lately to reach the Conn Smythe level that he played at in 2008-2009. If he doesn't, the narratives of him being lazy and/or treated unfairly, at least compared to Crosby. For the sake of the internet and intelligence everywhere, I surely hope he does. Based on what I've seen from him the last three games, I think he's heating up at the right time.

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