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Inside Scoop: Malkin wants to make son proud

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Evgeni Malkin has won two Art Ross Trophies, one Hart Trophy, one Ted Lindsay Award, one Calder Trophy and one Conn Smythe Trophy and is about to compete in his fourth Stanley Cup Final while looking for his third championship.

At the rink, everybody knows who he is - one of the best hockey players in the world. But when he goes home, Malkin is just papa to his son Nikita, who will turn a year old on May 31 - which will be Game 3 against the Nashville Predators.

"He has no idea I play hockey," Malkin told me with a laugh. "He has no idea I'm playing in the Final."

Right now, all Nikita is focused on is putting one tiny foot in front of the other.

"I'm happy because he started to walk," Malkin said. "I'm happy for him. I know when he's growing up, maybe 2 years old, 3 years old, he'll start to understand (who I am). I hope he will be proud of me."

These back-to-back Cup Finals have been different for Malkin compared to the back-to-back appearances he made in 2008 and '09. Back then, he was in his early 20s and single. Now, he's 30 and married with a kid who was born before Game 2 against San Jose of the '16 Final. But while things have changed off the ice, Malkin said they haven't changed much on the ice.

"(Being a father) has changed my life, for sure. But as a player, probably not," Malkin said. "I try to do the same routine every day. Be better every day. But my life changed, of course. This year, I have gone out zero times (laughs). I stay at home."

Malkin even joked that when the team has a day off on the road or they stay overnight before flying back to Pittsburgh, he tells head coach Mike Sullivan, "Let's go home!"

Malkin and his family - including his dad Vladimir and mom Natalia, who are in town right now - just can't get enough of the little guy.

"We're excited every day," Malkin said. "He's smiling, he's started to talk a little bit. It's so exciting to me. I try give him a kiss before I go to the rink. It's an amazing moment."

Having Nikita has made Malkin want even more kids.

"It was so exciting when my wife (Anna) was pregnant," he said. "I couldn't wait to see my son and now I want more. It's not my last one, for sure (laughs).

"I think my family, they are excited too. We're a tight family right now. He's so amazing. Every day I'm here, I'm excited. Just smiling to see my son walk. Every day it's new stuff. It's small things but they give you a smile."

With Nikita just starting to walk, skating is definitely not in the near future. While Malkin would be happy if Nikita shared his love for hockey, he isn't going to force it upon him.

"I don't think I will push him so hard like, 'go practice every day,'" Malkin said. "But if he likes it and I see it in his eyes that he wants to come to the rink, of course I will do it. I will sit with him in the locker room and try to be a good dad. Not just a good hockey dad.

"I will try to go to school and help him be smart, make new friends and be a good friend," Malkin continued. "Not (make) everything about hockey. Hockey is a short part of your life, like 20 years. But after, you be a good dad."

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