Special Season for Penguins ‘Two-Headed Monster’

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been the cornerstones of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization for over a decade now. The two members of the force lovingly nicknamed the “two-headed monster” have earned their share of hardware, piling up both individual accolades and team awards during their time in the NHL. They’ve also both been core contributors to the team’s offense in that time.

Crosby has 378 goals in his 772 career games; Malkin has 328 in 706. This season is unique for them, however, in that it’s the first one since 2008-09 in which both players have passed the 30-goal mark. (And, notably, 2009 was the year the two first hoisted the Stanley Cup.)

Why This Season Is Special

Crosby has regained, at least for the moment, his status as the scoring leader of the league with a hat trick that pushed him to 40 goals on the season. That already makes this season the second highest-scoring of his career and we still have 11 games left. Malkin, although he has missed the past two games due to injury after blocking a shot, is not far behind with 33 goals.

Both Malkin and Crosby have hit the 30-goal mark several times in their careers. Crosby has now managed it seven times; Malkin, five. The bold numbers in the table below show each time the player has cleared this benchmark.

 Season Crosby goals Malkin goals
2006-07 36 33
2007-08 24 47
2008-09 33 35
2009-10 51 28
2010-11 32 15
2011-12 (Crosby concussion) 8 50
2012-13 (Lockout) 15 9
2013-14 36 23
2014-15 28 28
2015-16 36 27
2016-17 40 33

The thing to note is that, since the early years, whenever one of the two has a high-scoring season, the other tends to drop below that 30-goal plateau. Malkin had his highest-scoring season in 2011-12, which was the year Crosby was sidelined with a concussion. That was the last time prior to this season that he cleared the 30-goal mark. These totals have fluctuated in part due to absences and injuries, but the Penguins were generally able to make up for underproduction from half of the duo with increased production from the other.

**NHL Lockout

As you can see from the graph, 2016-17 marks the first time in eight seasons that both Crosby and Malkin have cleared that red 30-goal line in the same season. That’s what makes this season special; they’re both providing significant offense.

What Does This Mean?

Patric Hornqvist, having recently returned from injury himself, is helping to fill in for Malkin on the Penguins’ second line during his current injury. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So what’s the significance of both Crosby and Malkin simultaneously hitting the 30-goal mark in the same season for the first time since 2008-09? For one, it’s part of the reason why the Penguins are the highest-scoring team in the league with an average of 3.46 goals per game. Malkin and Crosby combined have scored about 30% of the Penguins’ league-leading goal total this season. (To compare this season to the 2008-09 season: the Penguins were ranked sixth in the league for goals per game with an average of 3.15, and the combined force of Crosby and Malkin was scoring about 25% of that total.)

This means that both of the Penguins’ stars are producing in a big way.  That fact makes Malkin’s injury concerning for the team; his absence against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday will mark his third game missed in a row. But given that he returns to the roster in time for the postseason, Crosby and Malkin’s production rates will be a huge boost for the Penguins’ playoff hopes. Especially for a team suffering so many injuries on the roster, having the Penguins’ big names produce steadily has been indispensable for the team.