There’s no doubt in Evgeni Malkin
’s mind who is the No. 1 hockey player in the world.
It’s his teammate, Sidney Crosby
“I got very lucky that I got on the same team with Sidney Crosby
,” Malkin said in a wide-ranging interview translated from the Russian-language sports website, sports.ru. “I don’t know why many underrate his talent, say he is ‘over-promoted,’ that he has been talked about since he was 14. To me, he is the No. 1 player in the world. I won’t say why other players are not as good as he is. To me, he is the best. I have played with a lot of guys.”
The comments came in a story headlined, “Evgeni Makin: To Me, Crosby No. 1 In The World.”
“I don’t think that if a player gets 120 points – for example, Alex Ovechkin or Henrik Sedin – then he is the best,” Malkin said. “To me the main criteria are, in the first place, it is work in practice, work in the locker room, work during games. Crosby gives 200 percent every time, whether it is a practice or a game. To me it was a huge example when I came to Pittsburgh. I had never seen such a worker. Moreover, Sidney participates in every team meeting, films commercials, gives a lot of interviews. He does it for the team, in the first place.”
Crosby, 22, and Malkin, 23, have formed one of the NHL’s top offensive tandems since 2006, leading their team to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and the 2009 Stanley Cup title.
Both players are astonishingly accomplished at such a young age. Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion, the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as most outstanding player in 2007. He added the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as NHL goal-scoring champ this season.
Malkin won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 2007 and claimed both the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion and the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs in 2009.
Crosby is one of three finalists for this year’s Hart Trophy, along with Ovechkin and Sedin.
Malkin and Ovechkin both developed in the Russian hockey system and had to adapt to the NHL style in the smaller North American rinks. The North American or Canadian style is a more physical brand of hockey and places more emphasis on shooting the puck.
“When Ovechkin came to the NHL, he adjusted very quickly, adapted to the Canadian style,” Malkin said. “In my first years (in the NHL), I felt a bit uncomfortable, not as confident. I felt bounded somewhat, until I understood the essence of the rink, the essence of the game.
“Alex has such a talent that he quickly adapts to rink sizes, the style of play … I think that right now he is already a ‘Canadian,’ you can say. This is what he is called in the NHL – the ‘Russian Canadian’ – because he completes so many hits in a game. In this setting he’s like a knife in butter.
“I needed more time, but with time I got used to it, and in my third or fourth year in the NHL I feel quite confident already. And, to be honest, I am also becoming a Canadian (style of player). Because you start thinking more about a shot, you don’t think about a pass any more. It is difficult to keep your Russian style of play when you’re at a different arena in a foreign country, on these small rinks.”