Pittsburgh-Before the 1st period of the first pre-season hockey game was over at the CONSOL Energy Center Wednesday night it became evident to the Pittsburgh Penguins,and
everyone watching, that Evgeni Malkin is ready for the 2011-2012 season.
To start the scoring, Malkin set up winger Chris Kunitz at 11:41 of the 1st period. Geno grabbed a puck off the right wing boards and snapped a tape-to-tape pass to Kunitz in the high slot. Kunitz made a quick forehand deke and buried a wrister past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Receiving a pass in the neutral zone, and shielding off a 6′ 1″ 215 lb. Garnet Exelby, Malkin made a sensational individual effort down the right-wing boards to roof a wrist shot short-side on Howard midway through the 2nd period.
Malkin undeniably stood out all by himself on a sheet of ice with superstars such as Pavel Datsyuk, and this wasn’t due to Datsyuk wearing #24. Datsyuk wore the #24 in honor of his old teammate Ruslan Salei who was killed in the tragic plane crash in Russia a few weeks ago.
Malkin won every one-on-one battle along the boards throughout the night. He put on an absolute show.
Late in the 3rd period on the power play, Geno scooped up a puck in the neutral zone and dangled through four Red Wings penalty killers before losing his edge behind the Detroit net. From the seat of his pants, Malkin threw a no-look backhand pass into the slot through two more Wings giving the Pens a spectacular scoring opportunity. He received a well-deserved ovation after another one of his many eye-opening individual efforts throughout the night.
Malkin looked reloaded with every move in his arsenal. Every time Geno touched the puck he made things happen. He was drawing 2 & 3 Detroit Red Wings to him at one time opening up large amounts of space for line mates such as James Neal.
Malkin also made an unbelievable 360-spin with a backhand pass to Kris
Letang which Letang rung off the left post earlier in the game. Geno was sensational and finished the night with a highlight reel goal and an assist.
After tonight everyone is aware that Geno has shaken off his rust and is ready. Dan Bylsma should be advised to use Malkin as sparingly as possible in the pre-season, if at all.
Malkin dislocated his shoulder a few years ago in the pre-season and the Penguins do not need to relive that nightmare. If Geno would go down before the season starts, the Pens would be in deep trouble. Depending upon the return of Sidney Crosby, the early part of the season, if not all of the season, is going to depend on the scoring production of Malkin.
Geno has shown he can lead the Penguins with Crosby out of their line-up, and if tonight was any indication, he looks poised to do so once again this season. Although the return of Crosby is uncertain, the return of Evgeni Malkin looks very promising for the upcoming season.