If Pittsburgh is this good with Evgeni Malkin carrying them, how much better will they be when Sidney Crosby comes back? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Take your time, Sidney.
Because in Pittsburgh, there’s always Evgeni.
The Crosby-less Penguins – it’s been 15 games and counting – have discovered just how dominant their other superstar can be, as Malkin has carried the team in the absence of its captain.
Rather than slide down the Eastern Conference standings while playing without last season’s leading scorer and MVP, Pittsburgh has instead climbed into contention for the No. 1 seed – led by, perhaps, this season’s leading scorer and league MVP.
Malkin has piled up 12 goals and 30 points in the 15 games Crosby has missed – and 20 goals and 41 points in his past 22 games – and the Penguins have compiled a 9-4-2 record without the best player in the world in their lineup (or should that be, without the second-best player on the team in their lineup?).
Malkin’s emergence has especially benefited linemate Petr Sykora, who has ratcheted up his play – and production – when the Penguins needed him most.
Ryan Malone, too, has hit 20 goals and is providing the secondary scoring support the Pens need behind Malkin and, whenever he returns, Crosby. While Crosby recently returned to full-contact practice, don’t expect him back before March, at the earliest.
But, apparently, that’s not going to slow down the Penguins a bit.
• On the Marc
Boston center Marc Savard has never really received the recognition he’s due for being one of the NHL’s best playmakers. A constant among the league’s top scorers the past few seasons, Savard gets criticized for a perceived lack of dedication to defense and for sometimes playing on the perimeter.
Maybe it’s time to give Savard a break. He’s on pace for another 90-plus-point season and he’s had to bear the brunt of the offensive load after Patrice Bergeron went down with a nasty concussion in October. All this on a Bruins team that is, surprisingly, among the playoff contenders in the East.
And enough of the “too soft” knocks. Nobody in the league has more points than Savard’s 45 on the road; if he’s showing up to play in the other teams’ barns, he’s soft like Shaq is short.
• Preds’ power play not so Rad
You would think, after the Nashville Predators lost the likes of Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen last summer, they’d make room on the power play for young star Alexander Radulov.
Apparently, that’s not the case. Radulov has scored 44 of his 50 points at even strength, easily the highest percentage of even-strength points among the top 50 leading NHL scorers.
Or maybe it’s that Radulov just isn’t producing on the power play. He’s averaging three minutes per game of ice time on the man advantage, meaning he’s been getting work on the second unit. Nashville, though, was a lowly 26th in power play efficiency; it sounds like if the first unit doesn’t score, the Preds don’t do much when they’re a man up.
• Question of the week
Who had scored more goals in 2007-08, as of Feb. 22: Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash or Brad Boyes?
If you said Lecavalier, you’re wrong.
If you said Nash, you’re wrong.
And if you said Boyes…you’re still wrong.
They were tied, with 32 goals apiece, for eighth place in the league. Lecavalier and Nash are used to lofty positions in scoring races, but it’s a new experience for Boyes; he entered 2007-08 with 43 goals in 164 career NHL games.
• Stat shot
Only two players among the NHL’s top 25 scorers have a negative plus/minus. However, they’re really negative.
Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk, who has cooled off slightly on his scoring exploits in the past couple of weeks, sits 11th in points, but also carries a minus-16 rating.
And Florida’s Olli Jokinen, 24th among NHL scorers, is minus-13.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at email@example.com.
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