Morning Pens Buzz: Malkin’s “assault” on the game; Michalek’s struggles continue; Ovechkin hit similar to Engelland’s against CHI?

MORNING PENS BUZZ

“What Sidney is doing right now is like an assault on the game”….Those were the comments from former Penguin Billy Guerin during his retirement press conference on December 6, 2010.
A little more than 13 months later, it’s Crosby’s teammate Evgeni Malkin who this time around is doing an assault on the game.
Malkin continued his dominance Sunday afternoon vs the Washington Capitals, putting home a rebound 1:31 into in overtime for his 26th goal of the season and leading the Penguins to a 4-3 OT victory and their 6th straight win.

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Malkinenters Monday’s action with 26 goals and a league leading 58 points in 41 games, averaging 1.41 points per game. Malkin currently has a six game scoring streak, collecting 9 goals during that span. Since Sidney Crosby has been out of the lineup, Malkin has taken over with 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points in 20 games, averaging 1.7 points per game during that span.The statistics though don’t tell the whole story.
Malkin is dominating in all facets, especially from a puck possession game. What has also stood out is how he’s been a force in along the boards in the offensive zone using his size and-strength.
A prime example was on James Neal’s third period goal in Sunday’s game. Malkin coming through the neutral zone with a purpose tried to split several defenders but falls down and the puck goes into the right corner. It’s Malkinthough who comes out with the puck, beating Ramon Hamrlik in a 1-on-1 battle for the puck and while also drawing Brooks Laich to him, Malkin quickly finds James Neal in the right slot who beats Neuvirth glove side to tie the game at 3-3.
Malkin’s re-emergence as the arguably the games best player right now is the story of the NHL season, coming off ACL and MCL surgery and two straight down years.
He’s finally healthy for one and as good as Malkin’s been, don’t look past the fact that he has the best set of wingers in his career as a Penguin in Chris Kunitz and James Neal, forming one of the NHL’s best lines. The last time Malkinhad a regular line that resembled two top-6 wingers was in 2007-2008 with Ryan Malone and Petr Sykora.
The Kunitz-Malkin-Neal unit can do it all and the three have combined for 25 goals and 31 assists in the Penguins last 11 wins.
At somepoint the Penguins are going to need some secondary scoring, but for now they’re getting by with their big guns leading the way.
“They’re the big line for us right now and they come up big every night,” defenseman Kris Letang said following Sunday’s win. “They’ve been playing really well and I don’t know what to say about Malkin. He’s just playing unbelievable right now. He’s playing the best hockey I’ve seen him {play}.”
The top scoring duo, Malkin and Neal have combined for 104 points on the season, the best mark in the NHL. In the team’s last 20 games, the two have combined for 29 goals and 26 assists. While Neal and Malkin have been the big point producers, Chris Kunitz continues to do the dirty work on a game by game basis.
Evgeni Malkin NHL Ranks: Goals 26 (3rd), Assists 32 (7th), Points (1st), Game Winning Goals 7 (2nd)
James Neal NHL Ranks: Goals 26 (t-3rd), Points 46 (14th), Power Play Goals 12 (2nd)

Pens – Caps X’s and O’s

LETANG LEARNING TO SHOOT THE PUCK FROM THE POINT
Kris Letang’s play since returning from a concussion has been phenomenal and one notable aspect of his game that is standing out is that he appears to have finally figured things out on getting pucks to the net.
He’s slowly starting to shy away from having the mindset of trying to shoot the puck 100 mph everytime from the point.
Letang on his power play goal 4:51 into the game, controlled the puck at the point, had his head up and the emphasis of his slap shot was for a possible deflection in front by Chris Kunitz who provided a great front presence on the goal.

It wasn’t a booming shot by any means but it was still hard enough and had enough velocity to get by the goaltender in case a deflection wasn’t there. Need to see more of that.
MICHALEK’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Zbynek Michalek, the Penguins $4 million a year defenseman, continues to struggle in his own end. Michalek was on the ice for all three Capitals goals.
Michalek was beaten bad in front on Brooks Laich’s goal and on Alexander Ovechkin’s third period goal, Michalek got caught leaning to the puck carrier coming down the right side (Capitals), leaving an open lane for Semin to make a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin for the one-timer goal. At some point, people need to quit making excuses for Michalek. His inconsistent play is going on for a year in a half now.
MICHALEK PHONE HEARING
Michalek will be involved with the league today, having a discipline hearing at 10:00 a.m. for a head shot/elbow he delivered to Matt Hendricks in Sunday’s game…….. while Alexander Ovechkin has a hearing this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. for his head shot on Michalek.
SUSPENSION CONSIDERED LIKELY FOR OVECHKIN
League executives believe a suspension is warranted and likely for Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin who delivered a suspendable hit to Zbynek Michalek in the 2nd period of Sunday’s game.
The Ovechkin hit reminds me a little bit of Deryk Engelland’s hit when he got suspended for three games.
On Engelland’s hit, Brendan Shanahan said that Engelland “left his feet and launched himself into the head of Marcus Kruger, ” indicating that Engelland made Kruger’s head the “principle target”.
I see what Ovechkin did as being very similar, as he left his feet and an argument can be made that he made Michalek’s head the principle target. Ovechkin being a repeat offender makes at least 2-3 games a strong possibility.

Eastern Conference Standings

1. New York Rangers (30-12-4, 64 pts)
2. Boston Bruins (31-13-2, 64 pts)
3. Florida Panthers (22-15-4, 54 pts)
4. Philadelphia (28-14-5, 61 pts)
5. Ottawa (27-17-6, 60 pts)
6. Pittsburgh (27-17-4, 58 pts)
7. New Jersey (26-19-2, 54 pts)
8. Washington (25-19-3, 53 pts)

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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