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Malkin confident in second finals trip

Penguins' center is league's leading scorer in playoffs

Thursday, 06.4.2009 / 1:24 PM ET / News
By Christy Hammond  - Community Relations Manager
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Malkin confident in second finals trip
PITTSBURGH -- The suffocating defensive trio of forward Henrik Zetterberg and defensemen Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom has limited Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby to one assist in three games. It’s an impressive feat when you consider that Crosby has posted 29 points in 20 games and Detroit held off the board for two consecutive games.

With Crosby tied up by Zetterberg, forward Evgeni Malkin has stepped up with five points this series, including a playmaker (three assists) in Game 3. Malkin struggled last year in the Stanley Cup Finals, registering a goal and an assist in the six games, but another year in the league has helped Malkin adjust to the demands on an NHL player.

“What I’ve seen this year is probably the confidence level,” teammate Sergei Gonchar said. “It’s his third year in the NHL, second year in the finals. I do believe his confidence level is higher.”

Gonchar has played an important role mentoring the 22-year-old forward. When Malkin arrived in August 2006, Gonchar took his fellow Russian under his wings. Malkin could not speak English so Gonchar invited him into his home and acted as his interpreter.

Even though Malkin moved into his own house earlier this season and his English has improved, Gonchar still provides support for the center on and off the ice. During the press conference following Wednesday’s optional practice, Malkin couldn’t find the word to fit what he was trying to say. Gonchar leaned over and whispered the word “space” to him, enabling Malkin to continue answering the reporter’s question.

“It’s a tough situation,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “There’s a lot of hurdles coming from his culture and being a young kid. But that’s who he is. That’s who Evgeni is. And he’s a fiery competitor. He’s passionate. He wants desperately to win.”

With the help of teammates and the understanding of his role on the team, Malkin has become more openly relaxed outside of the locker room.

“He is a funny guy,” veteran Bill Guerin said. “And it’s kind of obvious when he’s going to carve somebody because he goes right from English right into Russian, so you can’t understand it. But that’s one side that I don’t really think people understand. I think people think he’s kind of a quiet guy. But he’s got a great sense of humor to him.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock believes last year’s trip to the finals gave Malkin experience and an understanding of the demands and pressures of a long postseason, allowing Malkin to just focus on hockey this time around.

“I think he’s a big guy that can hang on to the puck,” said Babcock of Malkin’s skillset. “He comes from the neutral zone with some speed. Because of his reach and his size he can be hard to handle on the cycle. But I don’t think anybody’s really surprised. He’s one of the best players in the world.”

The Wings have noticed how Malkin is playing with a lot of confidence this year and the team faces a challenge trying to corral the star forward in the remainder of the series.

“Last year people were talking about him having a virus or whatever it was,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “This year, I think he’s just being himself. You can see it every time he’s on the ice, he’s a dangerous player and doing all the right things and we have to do a good job of just trying to stay on top of him and not give him too much room.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
T. Tatar 5 0 3 1 3
M. Green 5 1 1 -1 2
A. Athanasiou 5 1 0 1 1
G. Nyquist 5 1 0 2 1
H. Zetterberg 5 1 0 3 1
J. Abdelkader 5 1 0 -3 1
B. Richards 5 1 0 -4 1
D. Helm 5 1 0 -1 1
D. Larkin 5 1 0 -2 1
N. Kronwall 5 0 1 3 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 1 2 0 .945 1.36
J. Howard 0 2 0 .891 3.59