While a major part of the Pittsburgh Penguins success early in the 2016-17 season goes to the play of the team as a whole, credit their assistant captain, Evgeni Malkin, with helping them get there. Yes, the overall team construction is composed of players who compliment each other in ways that go beyond mere numbers. However, a lot of new individual milestones are being forged. For Malkin, his next major accomplishment will be that of point number 800.
If you’re familiar with Malkin’s legacy in Pittsburgh, you probably already know it’s a mixed bag that tends to be mostly positive. For the most part, Malkin is considered an all-time great here in the Steel City. But he tends to stay out of the public eye for the most part, rarely giving an interview outside of the locker room. That rubs some members of the media the wrong way.
Additionally, he’s often criticized for his inability to “gel” with Sidney Crosby, whether that be on the power play or on a “superstar” line. That’s about where the pessimism ends, though.
He’s proven time and again that he’s quite capable of putting the team on his shoulders when needed. Malkin’s Conn Smythe winning tear through the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs has been etched into Pittsburgh lore. In prior seasons, he’s risen up and carried several Crosby-less Penguins team throughout various stretches. And although his recent years have seen his overall points per game dip a bit, he’s in full rejuvenation-mode right now, as if he’s channeling his inner 2009 playoff self.
For all of his quirks (not to mention playing his entire career in the shadow of the best player in hockey, Crosby) he’s been reliable and consistent, to say the very least. And that’s enough to get this discussion started.
Keeping Good Company
Take a look at the chart below. Often when I include charts like this, there’s a long monologue accompanying it describing differences between the players on it, how a certain player got to that point and what can be done to help him further his numbers. But by simply glancing at that chart (even without reading the numbers) the names speak to you.
Malkin has been in the discussion with the two all-time great hockey players in Pittsburgh history for a few seasons now. But with numbers like he has, he’s got a legitimate shot to approach Jaromir Jagr’s point total before he’s called it a career. Admittedly, I didn’t realize that until I began writing this article.
Having played much of his career as “Jaromir Jagr” to Crosby’s “Mario Lemieux”, wouldn’t it be fitting for those two to somehow combine to produce Malkin’s 800th point? This season, Malkin has been no stranger to spectacular, entertaining plays. Can we expect another dazzling Malkin moment (like the one in the video below) that’ll enter him into the “800 Club?” I opined in an article earlier in the year that Malkin is again passing the “eye test.” That may have been putting it a bit lightly.
However Malkin scores his next point, there’s no questioning his monumental achievements. Whether he scores a thrilling overtime game-winning goal or something more unceremonious happens (perhaps like Jagr’s milestone assist off of his butt which netted him second place in all-time scoring — see the video below) he’s among Pittsburgh hockey legends. And that accomplishment may far outweigh any numerical expression of thereof.