Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crosby and the other guy

I used to think Malkin always got the raw deal.

I mean, it doesn't matter how much he scores - how many assists he provides - how essential he is to the Penguin's success - the other guy's star shines brighter. It's always Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (name above the title - like "Clint Eastwood stars in Dirty Harry").

Now, I think Malkin is the difference maker on the Penguins. It's him, not Crosby, that makes them go - but he never gets any of the credit - because the NHL is trying to build Sid into the league-saving superstar.

And speaking of a raw deal - how about that first name thing? Evgeni Malkin? Evgeni? I mean, do we call him Ev? Or Geni? It's a bad deal all around. And speaking of bad first names, remember that former Ranger from back in the 1970s, Carol Vadenais? Imagine taking the ice every night with a name like Carol? And there's worse than that....

[Editor - I have removed 2ooo words of Dave Puck's ranting on bad first names for the good of the blog - picking up the thread below when he resumes writing about hockey...]

...anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that usually, Malkin gets a raw deal in Pittsburgh and the NHL. But not in game 2. Two big things happened in his favor the other night.

First - he got credited for a playoff goal without touching the puck. It happened on a PPPP - that is, a Pittsburgh Penguin Power Play. Red Wing defenseman Brad Stuart did something the Penguins were unable to do all night - score on Osgood. That's right, Stuart accidentally knocked the puck past his own team's goaltender, giving the Penguins their lone score of the evening. The refs decided to award the goal to Malkin - because he was the closest Penguin to the puck at the time (I was leaning close to my TV - but no one noticed me). And of course, when Malkin negotiates his next contract it will just look like a legit playoff goal on his stat sheet.

And then, with 19 seconds left in the game Malkin started a fight with Pittsburgh's Henrik Zetterberg. But there's a problem with that fight: under NHL rules (and yes, they do have some) a player who gets an "instigator" penalty in the last five minutes of a game can be suspended for the next game. The 'Guins are in enough trouble down 2-0, if they lost Malkin for game 3 they would be finished.

But Malkin got his second lucky bounce of the night. NHL director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell weighed the evidence (and no doubt also contemplated the potential lost revenue if the Penguins don't win a few games) and ruled that Malkin was not trying to "send a message" by starting the fight - and therefore he is not suspended and can play game 3 and beyond.

That's two huge strokes of good luck in one night for Evgeni - who actually got a third one when the Red Wings were nice enough to wait 14 seconds after Malkin's whack-a-goalie penalty expired before notching their first goal - so Malkin wouldn't be directly (or statistically) blamed for causing a powerplay that led to a score.

In other words, for for one night anyway, Malkin caught a few lucky breaks. Of course his team will always will be known as Crosby and the Penguins, but our man "Ev" did come away with something.

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