Russia: Evgeni Malkin's Journey to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Evgeni “Geno” Malkin – a Russian-born ice hockey player who currently serves as the alternate captain for the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins – has led his team to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Born in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk in 1986, Evgeni played for the same Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey club where his father had served as a defenseman. In 2003, Evgeni represented Russia in the U-18 World Hockey Championships before he was selected 2nd overall in the 2004 NHL draft. By 2009 he'd already won his first Art Ross Trophy.

During the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, which were held in Calgary/Edmonton around the New Year, Russia defeated Canada 6-5 in a semi-final before ultimately losing to Sweden in the championship match. The Pens Blog captured Mr. Malkin's playful banter directed at his Canadian teammates via his Twitter account:

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Feb. 26, 2012 game at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Michael Miller (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0).

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Feb. 26, 2012 game at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Michael Miller (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0).

As you probably know, Russia defeated Canada in a semi-final game at the World Junior Hockey Championship tonight. Evgeni Malkin spent the night trolling on Twitter. James Neal got in the act as well. […]

What we've learned from this is that Crosby, Staal, Fleury and Asham each owe Malkin $100.00. Too bad the Pens don't have any Swedish players for the final.

Here are some of the specific tweets the post cited:

James Neal:

@malkin71_ here they come geno


Evgeni Malkin:

I cant wait see Canada lose tonight!!!

Evgeni Malkin:

Whats the score Canada)))))?????

Evgeni Malkin:

Thanks boys))))#87,11,29,45-100$ tomorow please)))))

James Neal:

Anything can happen. What a game. Tough loss for the Canadian boys. Ur lucky this time @malkin71_

Fathead Sports Blog discussed in a February post how Mr. Malkin had taken a leadership role in the absence of the Penguin's Captain, Sydney Crosby:

Even with Sidney Crosby injured, Evgeni Malkin is having an amazing season. Within a three week span in January 2011, Crosby fell to a concussion and Malkin suffered a devastating knee injury. For a team that’s expected to perennially contend for the Stanley Cup, having their future Hall of Famers in doubt was worrisome.

While it’s unfortunate that Sidney Crosby is still sidelined with lingering effects of a concussion, Malkin has dominated this season. One would never guess that he shredded his knee not too long ago because he’s playing at such a high level. At this time, Malkin is leading the NHL with 78 points and has the Penguins looking like the Cup contender they’re supposed to be.

Because of Malkin, the Penguins are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. He has scored five points in a game a remarkable five times this season. Five times! In the modern day NHL, that is simply astounding.

In March, Mr. Malkin's intensity of play led to a discussion as to whether or not he should have been suspended for a hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk:

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the boarding minor Malkin received in the Penguins’ victory over the Bruins on Saturday will be the extent of his punishment: No suspension, no fine, just time served.

Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters has it right: This was a trifecta in Malkin's favor. No immediate injury, no prior history of illegal hits and there's enough gray area in Boychuk's last-second turn to the boards that supplemental discipline gets a little murky.

In April, both English- and Russian-language sources reported that Mr. Malkin had scored his 50th goal of the season, which was all the more remarkable because, (1) the season had been relatively low-scoring across the league, and, (2) Mr. Malkin himself had been forced to miss several games due to an injury to his knee.

CBS Sports Blog announced the goal in an April 7 post and also mentioned that Mr. Malkin had secured his second Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring points at the end of the regular season:

Entering Saturday's game against Philadelphia it was pretty much already decided that Evgeni Malkin was going to finish as the NHL's leading scorer and win his second Art Ross Trophy. And that's exactly what he's going to do, as he will finish the regular season with 109 points, leaving a pretty significant gap between himself and the second leading point producer in the NHL, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.

And Malkin did it while playing in just 75 games. His 1.45 points per game average pretty much blew everybody else away.

The only question that remained unanswered for Malkin was whether or not he would score his 50th goal of the season. Late in the second period, with the Penguins already up 3-2, he did just that by moving into the center of the ice and beating Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a wrist shot. – a Russian-language news outlet – announced Mr. Malkin's 50th goal of the season on April 8. A few days later, a Russian-language Twitter user posted a YouTube video of Malkin's training exercises.

Looking ahead to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mr. Malkin thanked the fans via his Twitter account in both English and Russian:

#Pens fans are the best- always support me & team! Thank you for everything! Can't wait for playoffs- Be loud :)

Спасибо всем!!!Спасибо за вашу поддержку,переживания и теплые слова-хороший сезон,но впереди самое интересное)))Хорошего Вам настроения)))

Thanks everyone!!! Thank you for your support and care, for your warm wishes – such a good season, but the most interesting things are ahead))) Wishing you a good mood)))

The Penguins have lost their first three Stanley Cup playoff games against their instate rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 4 will be played in Philadelphia on April 18.


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