LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 26, 2019
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Malkin Mauls Montreal



Huet
Cristobal Huet
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Evgeni Malkin registered a goal and two assists last night to rally the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4.

Malkin now has 82 points in 61 games, giving him a four-point lead over Alexander Ovechkin in the scoring race. More importantly, the Penguins pulled into a tie with the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division lead with 75 points, just one point behind the Ottawa Senators for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh was enjoying a 3-1 lead when Christopher Higgins scored at 18:07 of the middle frame to cut the lead in half. Just 21 seconds into the third, the rejuvenated Michael Ryder wristed his 12th of the season behind Dany Sabourin to knot the game 3-3.

That's right. Michel Therrien decided to start Sabourin in net. Yeah, I get tired of good goaltending, too. It's so predictable.

Roman Hamrlik blew a shot past Sabourin only three minutes later to give Montreal a 4-3 lead. Sabourin got the start because he's from Quebec and was supposed to have a lot of family in attendance. Yet not one of his family members had the decency to let him know he was completely off his angle. Thanks a lot. Jerks.

Anyway, it seemed as though the Habs, who recently erased a 5-0 deficit against the Rangers, were about to write another remarkable comeback. But Malkin had other ideas. Oddly enough, one of his ideas was for a cleaner, more efficient way to burn coal, but the other one was for winning the hockey game.

With the Bell Centre crowd going loopy, Malkin had to sweat out two minutes for an accidental high-stick before he could attempt any heroics. Pittsburgh's penalty killers -- Ryan Malone, Maxime Talbot, Colby Armstrong, Jordan Staal, Rob Scuderi, Sergei Gonchar, Darryl Sydor, and Ryan Whitney -- rose to the occasion, silencing the league's No. 1 power play when it mattered most.

As soon as Malkin stepped from the box, the puck came to Malone just outside the Pittsburgh stripe. Malkin immediately busted up ice and took a brilliant pass from Malone, streaking behind the defense and burying a shot between Cristobal Huet's pads to nail the Habs fans to their seats.

Twenty-one seconds after his momentum shifting tally, Malkin drew an interference penalty to Alexei Kovalev. It took all of 14 seconds with the man-advantage for Gonchar to rifle the eventual game-winner past Huet. There was much rejoicing.

It was yet another in a long line of brilliant performances from Malkin. Since Sidney Crosby went down with his ankle injury on January 18, Malkin has 12 goals and 30 points in 15 games. For the math impaired, that's two points per game. He's currently riding a 10-game point streak and has registered at least one point in 14 of the 15 contests. With Malkin leading the way, the Penguins have gone 9-4-2 sans Sid, easily surpassing my initial expectations of complete and utter disaster.

Malkin's on another planet right now. It's some previously undiscovered planet full of puppet shows, candy canes, and cheap wine. Let's call it Planet Awesome. He's creating scoring chances at will, and he's been equally dominant defensively, bringing back memories of Mario Lemieux's heyday.

The breakaway against Huet was vintage Lemieux. The anticipation, the speed, and the determination all screamed 66. And once he was in, there was no doubt he'd finish. It was automatic for the people.

When Malkin first signed with the Penguins, I declared Pittsburgh now had this generation's Wayne Gretzky in Crosby and the new Lemieux in Malkin. Kid Crosby is already Gretzky 2.0: faster, stronger, better. But in all honesty, I was beginning to have my doubts about Malkin. I wasn't sure he had the drive to be the best. No worries anymore. Ths kid's a driver; he's a winner. Those Lemieux comparisons are starting to look pretty good. Pretty, pretty good.

The true test will be how Malkin reacts when Crosby returns to the lineup. And that could be this Saturday against Ottawa. If Malkin is who I think he is, he'll keep on truckin'; he'll feed off Crosby's return and never look back.

The cool thing, though, is gonna be watching how Sid responds. He knows what's going on. He realizes what Malkin's been doing. Rest assured, Kid Crosby is gonna be a mission man. He's a touch competitive. He's the best, and he isn't scared to prove it.

Upon returning, Crosby is expected to skate with Malone and Armstrong. Malkin will be between Talbot and Petr Sykora. Can you imagine them trying to one-up each other every shift? It will be like dueling banjos without the inbreeding.

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY
A couple weeks ago, the NHL announced it was entering a strategic partnership with the GreenLife Organization, which helps businesses, institutions, and individuals "go green." The league will also be working with the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation's leading environmental organizations, to monitor and assess its progress towards becoming more environmentally conscious.

“The NHL, as a responsible corporate citizen, is taking action that allows us to help sustain the environment for future generations of NHL fans and players,” said Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner. “Building on the excellent work that the NHLPA and NHL clubs already are doing, our partnership with GreenLife, along with technical guidance from the NRDC, will help the NHL add the resources it needs to meaningfully reduce its impact on the environment and inspire fans, players, clubs, and others to take action.”

As part of the initiative, the NHL will attempt to reduce its carbon footprint and improve its overall ecological impact. Along with promoting green living and launching public awareness campaigns, the league hopes to improve the environment by becoming more energy efficient, exploring renewable energy alternatives, and limiting the noxious pollutants produced during New Jersey Devils games.

But it's nice to see Gary Bettman and his merry buffoons supporting a good cause for once. They nearly destroyed our sport; the least they can do is save the planet.

Milano
She loves us.

EH OH, OH EH!
In yet more old news, Alyssa Milano is producing high-end fashion apparel designed specifically for the female NHL fan. The clothing line, which is officially called the "TOUCH - by Alyssa Milano NHL collection," can be found at shop.nhl.com, NHL arena team shops, and select retail stores throughout the United States and Canada. I just pray your retail store was selected.

"I am really excited about TOUCH's partnership with the National Hockey League,” said Milano. “I am looking forward to giving female hockey fans fashion apparel as unique and special as the sport they love."

While this is swell news and all, let's face it; I'm only mentioning it so I can run these pictures of Alyssa Milano. You're welcome.









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LCS Hockey: Born Again
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