If Malkin shoots at the 2014 Games, no one will remember his local failures at the start of the season. Source: AP
The forward of the Russian hockey team and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni "Gino" Malkin, has set a personal record: his has not scored a goal in 15 games.
The last time Malkin hit the opponent’s net was Oct. 17, more than a month ago. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, the forward chalked up three goals through 19 assists.
During the Penguin’s game against the Washington Capitals in the U.S. capital on Nov. 20, Malkin played decently, he was useful and was noted with two assists, but again, "Gino" failed to strike the enemy’s net. It was the 15th game in which he was unable to score a goal.
Malkin began having difficulties with striking the opponent’s gates at the end of the last season. In the semifinals of the Stanley Cup, the Penguins were crushed by the Boston Bruins. Although the whole of Pittsburgh failed in the games with Boston (neither Malkin nor Sydney Crosby scored any points), some of the media considered the Russian to be the main culprit.
Malkin, whose contract deadline was approaching in the summer of 2014, received an offer to be exchanged—for example, to the Los Angeles Kings for the goalie Jonathan Bernier, or for forward Angers Kopitar and the right of choice in the first round of the draft. However, Pittsburgh has kept one of its leaders, having signed a new multiyear agreement with them.
After another unsuccessful November match, Malkin suggested that the decline in his game was associated with poor preparation for the season. The world trips may have impacted on the preparation process, as did Malkin’s participation in a charity match during the offseason, and in general, the hockey player’s active social life.
In the first games of the season, Malkin made a lot of mistakes, he was even leading in the team in the penalty minutes. But if in the middle of October, while not in optimal condition, the forward was able to throw three goals, now, even having gained his physical form, he cannot strike at the opponent’s net.
His partners’ injuries played their role in Malkin’s drought. In the first period of the season’s opening games, Neal was eliminated from the game. Soon after, Bo Bennett was injured, with whose pass Malkin scored the season’s first goal. Now, the truth is that both Neal and Bennett are back in the game.
In early November “The Hockey Writers” issue tried to explain the forward’s poor performance by the fact that for most of his career, he has taken long to get into the season, picking up the lion's share of points in the middle and the end of the championship. So in his best season of 2008-2009, Malkin, scored three goals in October, and in the next month - seven.
Bad shape at the start of the season, and partners’ injuries can be attributed to the objective factors of the hockey player’s poor performance, but there are also subjective ones, and the main ones among them is Malkin’s dependence on his teammate Sydney Crosby. Playing for the Pittsburgh together, Malkin and Crosby are somewhat similar to the basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, whose fate at the time brought them together in the Los Angeles Lakers – with the difference that in the Penguins, the best players, seem to have definitively separated into "the first and the second one." In such circumstances, Malkin could only become the main star of Pittsburgh at a time when Crosby is injured.
Russian fans are worried by Malkin’s goal drought because of the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. If the Pittsburgh forward shoots at the 2014 Games, no one will remember his local failures at the start of the season. In the meantime, the Russians still enjoy Alexander Ovechkin’s dramatic play; in his club he was spared from being neighbors with other superstars.
First published in Russian in Lenta.ru.
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