Evgeni Malkin is great with reporters, even if he'd rather have you believe otherwise.
Just before coming back to the lineup this weekend, Malkin did media after Pens practice. Shelly Anderson, a freelance Pittsburgh reporter, described the session on her twitter:
Sounds about right. Malkin hasn’t always enjoyed doing media (by his own admission), and has often been overlooked when he has, but for those paying attention, he’s been one of the best voices the Pens have had for years.
To celebrate his return to the line up, and the way he charmed Pittsburgh’s reporters, here’s five times Malkin was brilliant with media:
1. Teasing Marc-Andre Fleury (2014)
After Fleury hit 300 wins, the Penguins asked their players to reflect on their favorite Fleury moments. Players like Dupuis and Letang took the task seriously, mentioning Fleury’s save in game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. But Malkin took a different approach.
When asked about Fleury’s 300 wins, Malkin said: “My whole memories are that I score every practice, 10 goals. Every shootout, I score on him. I don’t know how he wins 300. It’s a surprise to me.”
Malkin: keeping things light in the locker room or speaking for the fans?
2. Sochi Olympics (2014)
Russia’s oppressive anti-gay propaganda laws became the focus for many fans, media members, and athletes alike in the lead up to the Sochi Olympics. Players were asked where they stood on Russia’s laws, and Russian players faced extra scrutiny. While some players appealed to their religious beliefs, others like Alex Ovechkin deferred answering.
Malkin, citing the fact that English is not his first language, said he did not feel comfortable discussing Russia’s law. When asked a follow-up question about whether he would have a problem playing with a gay teammate, he said, “No. No problem.”
The convenient (read: masterful) appeal to his English-as-a-second-language status allowed him to avoid offending his home country and national team (significant, given the intensity of Russian domestic politics and how often they spill over into hockey) while still giving North American fans what they wanted: an indication of his support for a potential gay teammate.
3. Breaking His Slump After Sochi (2014)
Malkin’s tumultuous relationship with the Sochi Games didn’t stop after Russia was unceremoniously eliminated five games into the competition, preventing Malkin and his teammates from competing for a medal on their home soil. Instead, when he returned to the Penguins, Malkin scored 1 goal in 10 games, leading many to speculate that he was allowing failure in Sochi to cloud his performance for Pittsburgh.
When his luck turned around against Detroit and Tampa Bay, rather than take credit for his four goals and six points in two games, Malkin gave the credit to the captain.
“(Russia) lost and (Crosby) supported me and helped me, and after we talked,” Malkin said, “I felt so much better. And started playing better.”
If you watch the video linked above, you’ll notice that Malkin realizes one of the reporters is leaving his scrum after he credits Crosby. As he says, “Yeah, you go to ask Sid about story.” The crowd laughed, but the message is also clear: Malkin has a voice, too, and he’ll use it to showcase his teammates’ leadership.
4. Hart Trophy Acceptance Speech, NHL Awards (2012)
“It’s easy for me if I read my last speech again,” Malkin begins, referencing his own difficulty with public speaking and easily charming the crowd (here’s a guy not afraid to laugh at his own jokes). But instead of reading his speech again (“Well, I’m lost it, sorry,” he apologizes), Malkin dedicates the award to Sergei Gonchar, who hadn’t played for the Penguins since 2010.
“He's my best friend right now and always together. I’m glad one day I meet him.” Us, too, Geno. Everyone loves a good best friend story.
5. Stanley Cup Playoffs Press Conference (2014)
One of Malkin’s best assets is how he loosens his teammates up, and Malkin and Crosby’s 2014 joint press conference before game 7 against the Rangers is good evidence of this skill. When someone’s phone started playing Rihanna’s Only Girl in the World, Malkin’s laughter made Crosby start cracking jokes.
But Malkin’s ability to lighten the mood doesn’t come cheap. When a reporter posed a question to the two of them about getting quality shots on Lundqvist, Malkin looked pointedly at Crosby. “Me again,” Crosby said with a laugh. Indeed.