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Time to invest in Evgeni Malkin

December 9, 2019, 8:16 AM ET [1 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been piling up standings points the last week. They shutout both the Blues and Coyotes during the week and then the tanking Detroit Red Wings on the weekend. They are currently sitting in the top wild card spot with 38 points and within striking distance of second in the division, currently held by the 40 point Islanders. Tristan Jarry has certainly been a big contributor earning two shutouts in his last two starts. Another driving force behind the Penguins success has been Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is in full Geno Machino mode. Without Sidney Crosby available Malkin has done everything in his power to keep the team on a winning trajectory. His 5v5 points per 60 is a ludicrous 4.02. Only Brad Marchand’s 4.04 is better. It’s been a lot of fun to see Malkin produce at this amazing rate.

The reason for this surge isn’t because Malkin tries harder when Crosby is out it is the fact he gets better linemates. Malkin is making the most of the Crosby deployment. Life is good when you get Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel on a full-time basis. This isn’t a slight at anybody. It is the truth. It is easier to play great when your linemates are really good and Malkin has. When you look at the numbers it is impossible to ignore what playing with Jake Guentzel has done for Malkin. Let’s look at their numbers together.

The Penguins have played 13 games since Sidney Crosby had his surgery. The last 12 games Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have been on the same line. During this time period Evgeni Malkin has six goals and 19 points. Only one goal and five points have been on the power play. Malkin has been steamroller at 5v5. Here’s where the Guentzel factor plays into things. Out of the 19 points Malkin has since joining Guentzel on a line 15 of those points have both Malkin and Guentzel on the scoresheet. At even-strength Malkin and Guentzel are both on the scoresheet for 11 out of the 14 points Malkin has. If Evgeni Malkin is in on a goal there’s an 80% chance Guentzel has been in on it, too.

Kris Letang plays a big role in this offensive success as well. He doesn’t show up on the scoresheet as often, but that is the nature of the position. It is not a weird coincidence that when Malkin got the team’s best winger and defender he went off offensively. So how can we keep this going?

Realistically Malkin is not going to get to keep playing with Letang. Crosby is going to hog that honor just like he has before the injury. Jake Guentzel is likely to be returned to the Crosby line as well. The only solution to keep Malkin firing on all cylinders is to make a trade for a quality top six winger or a quality puck moving defender. I think there will be more opportunities to upgrade on the wing than on defense. Taylor Hall is a current example of a player that could help both Crosby and Malkin get the quality of teammate they need to thrive. There will probably be more options as the season moves on. I think there definitely needs to be a trade to help out Malkin. Otherwise, we are going to be left with enthralling takes like

“What happened to Malkin?”

“Why does Malkin only do this when Crosby is out of the lineup?”

“We need that Malkin from November”

Deployment matters. Even for superstars. If the Penguins like what they see with Malkin they are going to have to go out and make a trade for it to be sustainable. The Penguins are a high end defensive team so far this year. If they are able to roll out to elite scoring lines and get some goaltending they will be one of the tougher teams to eliminate this spring.

Thanks for reading!
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