Sunday, March 18, 2018

Evgeni Malkin in top 2 Hart Trophy contenders

By Mark Madden
March 17, 2018

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The credibility of the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) died in 1989, when Wayne Gretzky was selected despite Mario Lemieux having 31 more points (all goals).
Gretzky's Los Angeles team had just four more points than Lemieux's Penguins, so that was no appreciable factor.
No good explanation was ever given for this blatant robbery, likely because none existed. Pro-Anglophone prejudice, perhaps, or maybe a reward for Gretzky (presumably) helping the NHL's profile by going to Los Angeles that season. It was Gretzky's last MVP.
“I judge myself by Stanley Cups and scoring titles, because nobody votes on those,” Lemieux famously said later.
Keeping that in mind is a good way to begin discussion of this season's Hart Trophy balloting.
There are three clear front-running candidates, with one dark horse. The dark horse could emerge further if his team makes the playoffs.
The three front-runners are:
• Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay winger. Kucherov leads the NHL in scoring, and the Lightning have the second-most points in hockey.
• Evgeni Malkin, Penguins center. Malkin is second in points and goals, and the Penguins sit second in the Metropolitan Division.
• Alex Ovechkin, Washington winger. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals, and the Capitals lead the Metro Division. Ovechkin is propping up a fading Capitals team that lost several key players from last season and is suffering through a bad year by goaltender Braden Holtby.
The dark horse is:
• Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado center. MacKinnon is fourth in scoring. His Avalanche are tied for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. If Colorado makes the postseason, MacKinnon will be rightly perceived to have elevated the Avalanche after finishing last in the West last year.
The explanations are simplest for the candidacies of Kucherov and Malkin. That makes them the best choices. Each has strong individual stats. Each is part of a successful team and legit Stanley Cup contender. It's about how the player does and how his team does: Keep it concise.
Whenever explaining your choice for an award gets complicated, you're too often indulging personal preference. Finding a reason to pick the player you like (or not pick the player you don't).
That brings us to New Jersey's Taylor Hall.
Hall is being touted in many circles as a strong Hart candidate. The Devils winger is having a great season and looks the part. Speed and skill.
But Hall is just 12th in scoring, and his team sits precariously in the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot. How “valuable” is Hall if he's not among the top 10 scorers and New Jersey misses the postseason? To put Hall in a class with (especially) Kucherov and Malkin is letting the imagination run wild.
Hall has one big qualification: He's Canadian. So is MacKinnon. Kucherov, Malkin and Ovechkin are not.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association select the Hart Trophy winner. While just seven of the NHL's 31 teams are based in Canada, 55 per cent of those voting for the Hart Trophy are Canadian.
That shouldn't matter, but it might. We could pretend it's inconsequential. Like many pretended Gretzky was more valuable than Lemieux in 1989.
There are different descriptions of what the Hart Trophy represents. Does “most valuable” equate to “best player?” Should goalies or defensemen be considered, or do they have their own awards? How much does team success mean? Should a player from a non-playoff club be considered? Does it mean more to excel late in the season than early in the season?
If that last factor is heeded, Malkin has 26 goals and 27 assists in 32 games played since Jan. 1. He has been the NHL's top player over that span.
For me, it's down to Kucherov and Malkin.
If Malkin wins the scoring title, he's got a 50/50 chance. If Malkin finishes first in points and goals, he should be a lock.
But, while the memory of 1989's MVP debacle might not burn brightly for Malkin, being omitted from the NHL's official list of 100 greatest players could still sting. That was announced a little over a year ago and is no less absurd now. Duncan Keith, Mats Sundin, Jonathan Toews and at least a dozen others on that index couldn't carry Malkin's jock in a goalie's equipment bag.
Memo to Malkin: Judge yourself by Stanley Cups and scoring titles.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Evgeni Malkin is NHL's most underappreciated superstar

Greg Wyshynski
March 17, 2018
Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

I entered the Pittsburgh Penguins' locker room after practice with a theory to test: Center Evgeni Malkin, who, as of Friday, sits two points (89) and two goals (40) away from the league lead in both categories, is the most underappreciated dominant player in the NHL today, and potentially of all time.
What say you, Carl Hagelin?
"In this locker room he's appreciated," the winger said, "but I don't know if you ask around the league if he is."
Well, let's look at the evidence, shall we?
Malkin is second among active players (to teammate Sidney Crosby) and 13th all time in points per game (1.189), despite having never played in the 1980s like seven of the players ahead of him did for a significant portion of their careers. Malkin is tied for third with Crosby among active players in goals per game, at 0.475, behind only Alex Ovechkinand Steven Stamkos. He's an unstoppable force when he's on, as the NHL has seen for the past several weeks.
"He's been dominant. He's found another level. Especially in the second half, we've needed points, and he found a way to elevate his game," Crosby said of Malkin, who has scored 53 points in 32 games since the start of 2018.
Yet the Hart Trophy talk doesn't always include his name, like it does Nikita Kucherov or Nathan MacKinnon or Taylor Hall or Ovechkin or even Connor McDavid, whose team is 17 points out of a playoff spot.
The fact is that Malkin was a Hart finalist twice before winning the award in 2011-12; since then, not only has Malkin not been a finalist again, he has not received a single vote for MVP.
Crosby, meanwhile, has received at least one vote for the Hart Trophy in 11 of his 12 previous NHL seasons. Then again, he also made the NHL's list of top 100 players of all time, while Malkin infamously did not.
It's hard to imagine a player of his skill, his accomplishments -- three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe -- and his dominance being underappreciated, and yet here we are.
"As a hockey community, we need to recognize what he's doing. Geno is doing something special," said Phil Bourque, former Penguin and current Penguins Radio Network color analyst. "But it doesn't get as much notice because Sid's here and Phil [Kessel]'s doing what he's doing. And people look at Pittsburgh and they think they're fine. They think they won two Cups. They don't need a guy winning a Hart or a Rocket Richard because they're going to be fine, but he needs to be in the conversation more."
Hagelin agreed. "He's been so special for the last three months. This whole year has been outstanding," he said. "It's a fun ride to be a part of. He's a guy that wants to improve every day, and wants his linemates to improve every day. You just try to go out there every day and help him out. But he really doesn't need a ton of help."
So please join us in informally establishing the Evgeni Malkin Appreciation Society, a nonprofit organization that seeks to strap on an oxygen tank to the Penguins star's accomplishments when Crosby and Kessel suck all the air out of the room. A collective dedicated to keeping Malkin in the conversation, as Bourque said, when the inclination is to take his regular-season exploits for granted on a team seeking its third straight Stanley Cup.
This will be our mission, for Evgeni Malkin cares significantly less about the Hart, Art and Rocket.
"Geno doesn't play for those trophies. He plays for one other trophy," Bourque said. "That's not lip service, that's the truth, and that's incredibly admirable."

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mont-Tremblant teen's magical morning with Sidney Crosby

Skating alone on an outdoor rink, Guillaume Ouimet got some unexpected company in January as the Pens' star left him with a lasting memory.

By Stu Cowan
March 15, 2018

Sidney Crosby surprised Guillaume Ouimet, right, on an outdoor rink in Quebec in early January. GUILLAUME OUIMET/INSTAGRAM

Guillaume Ouimet was given the opportunity to see Sidney Crosby up-close in action Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
But it was nothing compared to actually being on the ice with Crosby, something Ouimet got to experience in January at an outdoor rink in Mont-Tremblant.
Ouimet, who is captain of the Junior Double-A Mont-Tremblant Diables, has been skating on the same outdoor rink since he was about 5 and the 19-year-old still likes to go by himself early in the morning to do some drills and again at night to play shinny with his friends. It was about 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 9 when he noticed a car pull up in the nearby parking lot and a man get out and start walking toward the rink.
“At first, I was just surprised to see someone else at the rink so early in the morning on a weekday,” Ouimet recalled over the phone Wednesday from Mont-Tremblant. “But as he got closer, I realized who it was and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it … it was unreal.”
It was Crosby, who was vacationing in Mont-Tremblant during the Penguins’ bye week in the NHL schedule. 
“When he first showed up he didn’t have his skates … he was just checking out the ice,” Ouimet said. “He asked me a couple of questions about the ice and if I was alone. I asked him if he wanted to join me for a skate and he said: ‘Of course.’ He went back to his car to grab his skates and laced them up while sitting in the snow, just like a kid would do. It was pretty impressive to see. 
“When you think about it, it was his bye week — his only week with no hockey during the entire season. He comes to Mont-Tremblant and he brings his skates? That shows you how much he loves the game. He could have gone on a beach in Mexico or somewhere and relax.”
Ouimet’s story has received a lot of media exposure, including an interview with Tony Marinaro on TSN Radio 690. Afterward, Marinaro reached out to his friend Andy Kirstein, who has Canadiens season tickets, to see if he would give Ouimet his seats for Thursday’s game. Kirstein is president and CEO of Como Fred David, which designs, manufactures and distributes women’s apparel.
“I read the story online a couple of weeks before Tony had him on the air,” Kirstein said over the phone Thursday morning from London, England, where he was on a business trip. “I thought it was just a great story … that’s the type of story you wish would happen to everyone, including yourself. I thought it was very cool and Tony called me and I said it would be my pleasure to give the kid my tickets.”
Kirstein’s seats are very good ones, located in the third row of the Prestige section, and Ouimet brought his father, Guy, to the game. Kirstein said he received a “beautiful letter” from Ouimet, thanking him for the tickets.
Ouimet said he spent about an hour on the outdoor rink with Crosby while the player’s girlfriend, Kathy Leutner, took photos so Ouimet could have some souvenirs — and also so his friends would actually believe him.
After getting on the ice, Crosby told Ouimet he had been having some problems coming out of the left corner with the puck in the offensive zone, getting poke-checked by defencemen, so the NHL superstar set up a drill using a pair of his girlfriend’s boots as cones and had Ouimet work with him.
“He’s the best player in the world, but his desire to improve and his work ethic is phenomenal,” Ouimet said. “I realize why he’s the best player in the NHL … every little thing that’s not perfect he wants to work on it. I think that’s the main key to be the greatest at what you do.”
Afterward, Ouimet gave Crosby a tour of the nearby indoor arena where his junior team plays and took him into the Diables locker room. Ouimet said Crosby spent about 10 minutes speaking with some arena workers, using the French he learned while playing junior for the Rimouski Océanic.
“His French is pretty good,” Ouimet said.
When asked what impressed him most about Crosby, Ouimet said: “Not only his skills on the ice, but his personality. He was so humble, he really took the time to talk to me like we were friends. He doesn’t think that he’s better than anyone else. I was giving him compliments, but he just told me that every player in the NHL is good.”
Ouimet is a Canadiens fan and his favourite player is Brendan Gallagher, but that’s not who he was planning to cheer for Thursday night.
“I think I’ll probably be cheering for the Penguins,” he said. “The Canadiens’ season is pretty much over, so I’ll be cheering for a third Stanley Cup in a row for Sidney.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Failure to play ball in free agency a strike against Pirates

By Chris Mueller
March 13, 2018
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Colin Moran
Jake Arrieta finally signed, in case you missed it.
Arrieta, once thought to be a guy who would cash in for a huge free agency payday, inked a deal with the Phillies for $75 million over three seasons. Great money, sure, and a great rate, but still not the overwhelming, knock your socks off, “are you kidding me” return that some felt he would command.
Mike Moustakas, who declined a qualifying offer for the Royals coming off of a 38-home-run year, found no serious suitors in the open market and ended up coming back to the team for just north of $6 million dollars for one season — a cut of about $11 million from what his qualifying offer was.
This hasn’t been a “normal” off season in baseball. Free agents aren’t getting paid like they usually do. Teams are being more cautious with their dollars, especially for guys whose age is seen as a primary concern.
Still, players are getting contracts. The market didn’t dry up completely. Only one team failed to sign a single major-league free agent this year. Can you guess which team that is?
If you said, “the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris,” congratulations, you can come and claim your prize at any time. Moustakas, who may have come to the Pirates for a very affordable rate, and would have, at least for one year, plugged a hole at third base, was not pursued. Instead, the Pirates traded away Gerrit Cole to Houston, gaining Colin Moran in the process.
There is no good reason why the Pirates, if they feel they are poised to contend this year, needed to give away Cole to acquire a third baseman. To hear the team tell it, they’re tantalized by Moran’s bat, but also by the years of team control they have with him.
The same story applies to Joe Musgrove, who the organization apparently projects as a starter, and a good one — again, that’s the opinion of the team, not necessarily pundits. The Pirates have control of him for several seasons, and at a low cost. The idea of buying established starting pitching seems like it was a foreign concept, something barely considered, if at all.
This was the team’s behavior during one of the softest winters for free agents in recent memory. One might be inclined to say that a team that felt it was close to contention would look to exploit the market and sign useful players for a bargain rate, without having to commit several worrisome years to them.
The Pirates did nothing of the sort. They traded away Andrew McCutchen, they traded away Gerrit Cole, and they stood by the idea that players acquired in those deals would help the team this year. They might be right about that.
Then again, they might not. They might struggle in an effort to compete for even a wild card berth. They might have passed on their chance to sign some bona fide, proven performers to downright reasonable deals in the one off-season in which the playing field as far as free agency seemed more level than ever.
This is a team that, in three excellent seasons, never went financially beyond their comfort zone to compete. They made shrewd moves, but they never pushed themselves to a point where any observer would say, “Yes, the Pirates have spent to their absolute upper limit.”
Despite that, the team has shed some of its biggest financial commitments in the name of promoting a youth movement. One reason, given by Neal Huntington on 93.7 The Fan, centered on not feeling like the team from last season was good enough to warrant a free agent talent infusion. That’s curious, given that, in the same interview, he spoke fondly of the team’s chances to surprise people this season.
The team can say whatever it wants, can explain their inaction however they’d like. One thing seems inarguable: the Pirates had a chance to make some real improvements to the team in free agency this year. They did nothing, and that alone speaks volumes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alex Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury primed to challenge NHL's biggest records

By Rob Rossi
March 13, 2018
Image result for fleury ovechkin

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save against Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in this 2009 file photo.(Nick Wass/AP)

One is beloved. Another is loathed. Each has contributed mightily to the most enjoyable era of hockey Pittsburgh has known.
And in case you missed it, Marc-Andre Fleury and Alex Ovechkin both joined exclusive hockey clubs Monday night.
Fleury is now one of only 13 goalies to win 400 games in the NHL.
Ovechkin is now one of 20 players to score 600 goals in the NHL.
They were on opposite sides of the best rivalry of this NHL generation for so long that it is easy to forget how close Fleury and Ovechkin came to leading the Penguins out of the black hole that was the league's season lost to lockout. The Penguins traded up to draft Fleury first overall in 2003. A year later, they finished with the worst record (but lost the NHL Draft lottery) in what was the Ovechkin Sweepstakes.
Sure, Evgeni Malkin is arguably the finest consolation prize any professional franchise has ever been fortunate enough to draft with a second pick.
It's also true that had the Penguins won Ovechkin Sweepstakes, they would have been granted fewer balls in the Sidney Crosby Lottery they won coming out of the 2004-05 lockout.
If the choice is between Crosby and Malkin and Ovechkin, the choice is easy.
Still, it was pretty lucky of the Penguins — and for everybody in Pittsburgh — that the two greatest centers to enter the NHL since Eric Lindros both played with a goalie who had the goods to become one of hockey's greatest winners.
Also, the fact that Crosby, Malkin and Fleury were together to go up against Ovechkin for most of his career should at least give his critics pause for reconsideration before knocking his never having won the Stanley Cup.
A lot of hockey players have won the Cup. How many can say they have made Wayne Gretzky sweat one of his NHL records?
Only Mario Lemieux has managed such magnificence.
Even in Super Mario Land, Ovechkin should be appreciated for frightening goalies like no scorer since Lemieux in his prime. If the suggestion is too much for you to swallow, perhaps the best course of action is to stock up on antacids.
Ovechkin is headed for a place even Lemieux didn't reach: The 700 Club.
On track for a fourth 50-goal season in the last five campaigns, Ovechkin is a safe bet to eventually become only the NHL's eighth 700 goal guy. He is a good bet to surpass Jaromir Jagr's third-best 766 goals, and probably a decent bet to supplant the late Gordie Howe at No. 2.
Howe ended up with 801 goals. Only Gretzky's 894 were more.
Truth is, despite an array of obstacles (goalies and coaches have never been better, enforcement of rules has rarely been worse), Ovechkin might have been The One to knock The Great One from the top spot if not for the "work" of NHL owners.
His rookie season should have been the one that wasn't played in 2004-05. He ended up with 32 goals in 48 games after the lockout that eliminated the 2012 part of the 2012-13 season. After the next couple of seasons, Ovechkin will again likely be looking at losing games to owners' greed.
What a waste that would be, because Ovechkin is a hockey treasure.
It isn't entirely his fault that the Capitals' best-built clubs ran into the three best Penguins squads captained by Crosby, who always could count on teammates as superior No. 2 (Malkin) and better big-game goalies (Fleury and Matt Murray) than did Ovechkin.
It isn't true, either, that Ovechkin is a better player than Crosby or Malkin. However at the very worst, Ovechkin is one of a handful of humans who can do with seeming ease the one thing that turns most of us on to hockey: score goals.
He does it with unapologetic passion, too … still.
By the time of their respective 13th seasons, Gretzky and Lemieux at times appeared bored by beating goalies like rented mules. (Consider that your belated birthday gift, Mr. Mike Lange.) As he approached No. 600, Ovechkin reacted to most of his waning 500s-goals as though they were his first.
Planet Hockey is better with a grinning Ovi.
Planet Earth is best with a smiling Fleury, and Fleury has had a lot to smile about in his first season with Golden Knights. That his 400th victory came against the Flyers was fitting, almost as if the hockey gods were reminding the world that we'll always connect Fleury with the Penguins.
Lost in the losing of his franchise-goalie spot with the Penguins is that Fleury has won 43 of 75 games in which he played dating to last regular season. He had won no fewer than 35 games in each of seven consecutive seasons before his final year with the Penguins.
A goalie can't win 35 games if he isn't regularly available to his club.
Being available to perform at a high level can be taken for granted. Remember what former Penguins general manager Ray Shero said about Fleury after his disappointing 2012 and 2013 postseasons.
"Fleury wins 35 games for us every year," Shero said. "Am I supposed to throw those wins out? There aren't any other goalies doing that."
Since he joined the NHL, Fleury's winning has been matched only by the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is pretty good company for The Flower.
Playing pretty well the rest of his career probably won't be enough for Fleury to best his idol, Martin Brodeur, as the No. 1 winner amongst goalies. Even six more seasons at 35 wins apiece would only pull Fleury within a binoculars-aided view of Brodeur's ridiculous 691 victories.
That said, don't bet against Fleury besting Patrick Roy's 551 wins to claim the second spot as his own. In the shootout, he has found a format that rewards his unmatched one-on-one excellence. In the Golden Knights, he has found the rarest expansion franchise set up to contend from Day 1.
If the next Cup Final pits the Capitals and Golden Knights, bet on Fleury to again keep Ovechkin from the one goal he hasn't scored.
You shouldn't bet on that happening, though. In the playoffs, Crosby and Malkin will take care of one of the greatest goal scorers of any hockey generation.
How would they fare in a Cup Final against a goalie who is one of hockey's virtuoso victors? We should all be so lucky to find out.
Rob Rossi is a contributing columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Real_RobRossi.


Marc-Andre Fleury won his 400th career NHL game on Monday, and now he sets his sights on climbing up the all-time list, potentially even reaching the top 10 by season’s end.

March 13, 2018
Vegas Golden Knights' Marc-Andre Fleury in action during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Monday, March 12, 2018, in Philadelphia. Vegas won 3-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Marc-Andre Fleury in action Monday night against the Flyers. (AP/Matt Slocum)
It was never a matter of if so much as it was a matter of when. With 375 career wins to his name entering the 2017-18 season, Marc-Andre Fleury joined the expansion Vegas Golden Knights' inaugural campaign with a chance to become only the 13th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 400-win plateau.
The odds were favorable that Fleury would win his 400th contest this season. After all, his career numbers suggested that any season in which he played more than half the campaign was one in which he was likely to hit the 25-win mark. In fact, only once in his past 13 seasons had Fleury suited up in more than 41 games and failed to hit the quarter-century total. Most assumed there were only two things that stood in Fleury’s way: injury and team talent. And while the first did strike — he missed 25 games from mid-October through early Decemeber with a concussion — the latter hasn’t been even the slightest concern. Rather, it’s partially to thank for Fleury reaching 400 victories despite missing so much time.
The Golden Knights hit the ground running to start the campaign, rattling off three wins to start the season, all with Fleury in goal. The next time out, though, is when the injury struck, but by the time the veteran keeper returned, it was awfully clear that there was more to the magic in Vegas than beginner’s luck. Once he was back in the crease, Fleury backstopped the upstart Golden Knights to victory after victory. And it was Monday’s win, a 38-save performance in the Golden Knights’ 3-2 defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers, that resulted in Fleury's milestone.
As noted, Fleury became the 13th goaltender in history to reach the mark, and winning his 400th game with 13 games remaining in Vegas’ campaign means there’s opportunity for the 33-year-old to continue his ascent up the all-time wins list before 2017-18 concludes. One more win, for instance, will tie him with Chris Osgood for 12th all-time. Add another three wins to that, which would give him 404 career victories, and Fleury will slide into 11th spot and one win clear of Grant Fuhr. And if Fleury can manage to win eight games over the final month of the campaign, he’ll vault into 10th place on the all-time wins list, one ahead of Glenn Hall, who currently rounds out the top 10 with 407 wins.
But the timing of the win is significant beyond giving Fleury runway to surpass some Hall of Fame netminders before season’s end. By winning his 400th game this season, at age 33 and 104 days, Fleury became both the second-youngest and second-fastest goaltender to reach the 400-victory plateau. Only Martin Brodeur was younger, getting No. 400 at 31 years and 322 days, with Henrik Lundqvist as the only netminder who reached the mark faster. It took ‘King Henrik’ 727 games to secure his 400th victory. Last night’s outing was the 728th of Fleury’s career. So, while hitting the milestone with time left in the season gives Fleury room to move up the all-time wins list by the end of the campaign, doing so with such expediency career-wise gives him the opportunity to rocket up the all-time list in the remaining years of his NHL tenure.
It’s by no means a perfect science, but let’s try making some rough estimates about where Fleury could then end up on the all-time list, shall we? 
First, let’s assume that, like many of the other goaltenders who appear in the top-10 wins list, Fleury plays well into his late 30s. At present, the 33-year-old has one season remaining on his current contract with the Golden Knights, which could mean he has one more long-term deal left in him, say a five-year deal that would see him play until his age 39 season. With Fleury’s history of health issues and the natural decline goaltenders begin to face, a safe assumption would be that he starts between 35 and 60 games per season. That’s an average of 48 per campaign and a rough estimate of 288 games across the next six seasons.
Let’s then conservatively estimate he wins another five games this season, taking his career win total to 405 by the end of the season. That would move Fleury into 11th place and two back of Hall with the crudely determined 288-game clock ticking on his career. At his career win percentage of .549, Fleury would win another 158 games by the time he finished up, which would bring his career total to 563 wins. A lower estimate, with Fleury simply playing break-even hockey, would see him add 144 wins and sit at 549 wins by the time his career came to a close. The difference there is important, too.
At the former higher total, Fleury would surpass Patrick Roy, whose 551 victories currently sit second all-time behind Brodeur’s 691-win NHL record. At the latter, lower total, Fleury would fall two wins shy of surpassing Roy. And despite the continued excellence of Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo, it appears Fleury is set to do battle with Roy for that second spot. Lundqvist, while a near lock for 500 wins, doesn’t seem all too likely to continue much beyond his current deal and three more 30-win campaigns to close out his contract would leave the New York Rangers keeper at around 520 wins for his career. Likewise, Luongo’s 467-win total puts him incredibly close to the 500-win mark, but it seems increasingly unlikely the soon-to-be 39-year-old plays out the final four seasons of his contract. Even if he were to do so, the past two seasons would suggest he’s in line for no more than 20 wins per season. And another 80 victories for Luongo would still leave him second to Roy, four wins shy of moving into a tie for second all-time.
Again, it’s not a perfect science. It can’t be without the ability to account for injuries or work stoppages that could rob Fleury of playing time. But with the way he has played over the course of his career and the history of other similar keepers, there’s no reason to believe Fleury can’t put together an honest-to-goodness chase of Roy for second on the all-time list and punch a ticket to the Hall of Fame in the process.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Penguins' Evgeni Malkin running wild since Jan. 1

By Jonathan Bombulie
March 12, 2018
Image result for evgeni malkin march 2018
Evgeni Malkin doesn't have a hard time explaining why he's in the middle of such a stellar season.
He credits good health, good linemates and a growing sense of confidence for the prolific path he's cut through the last four months of the NHL schedule.
What's harder to pinpoint is just how many trophies Malkin will be adding to his collection by the time the regular season draws to a close.
Can he lead the league in goals for the first time in his career? Can he lead the league in scoring? Might he earn enough votes to take home MVP honors? All possibilities are on the table with a month left in the season.
“I just want to not think about that. I want to sleep at night,” Malkin joked. “It's very important for me. It's a good challenge for me. I challenge myself. I'm ready every game, and I try to help the team win, and I do my best. If I win, it's good. If not, next year.”
Here is a look at 10 remarkable aspects of Malkin's remarkable season:
1. There's a really good chance Malkin wins the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Coming into Monday night's games, Malkin had 39 goals, one behind league leaders Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine. In the second half of the season, Malkin has been scoring at a greater rate than either. Malkin has 25 goals in his past 30 games. Laine has 22 in his last 30. Ovechkin has 17.
2. Winning the Richard would put Malkin in a class by himself.
Malkin is one of five players to win the Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe trophies in his career. The other four are Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Bobby Orr and Patrick Kane. None of those four won the Richard, which was inaugurated in 1999.
3. There's a really good chance Malkin wins the Art Ross Trophy, too.
Malkin has 87 points, one behind league leader Nikita Kucherov and two ahead of Connor McDavid. Malkin has been scoring at a much more prolific rate since Jan. 1, averaging 1.70 points per game compared to 1.34 for McDavid and 1.10 for Kucherov.
4. If Malkin wins the Art Ross, it would be an age-defying accomplishment.
Malkin is 31. The last player older than 30 to lead the NHL in scoring in a full season was Lemieux, who did it at 31 in 1996-97.
5. Malkin has more multipoint games than scoreless games this season.
Malkin has recorded 11 two-point games, 10 three-point games and two four-point games. He has been held off the scoresheet 17 times.
6. Malkin's defense hasn't suffered at the expense of his scoring.
Malkin is a plus-15. No other forward on the Penguins roster is better than plus-8.
7. Health helps.
Malkin missed between 13 and 25 games due to injury in each of the previous five seasons. This year, he's missed four.
8. Hagelin helps.
Pairing up Malkin with speedy left wing Carl Hagelin has been a home run. When the duo is on the ice together at even strength, the Penguins average 3.69 goals per 60 minutes. When Malkin is on the ice without Hagelin, the Penguins average 2.55 goals per 60.
9. Home games help.
Malkin is having a good season on the road (38 points in 34 games), but he's having a great season at home (49 points in 32 games). The only bigger homer in the league is Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (59 points in 32 games).
10. Still, Malkin probably won't end up the NHL's all-time leading Russian-born scorer.
With a goal and an assist against Dallas on Sunday night, Malkin (919) passed Pavel Datsyuk (918) for fifth place on the NHL's all-time Russian scoring list. At his current pace, there's a good chance Malkin will pass the current leader, Sergei Fedorov (1,179), before his contract is up in 2022. The problem? Ovechkin has a 188-point lead on Malkin and is still going strong.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.