Before the Penguins’ game against Florida last Sunday, Evgeni Malkin approached rookie defenseman Derrick Pouliot in the locker room with a question.
“He came into the room with one of my sticks and said he liked the curve, and he’s like, ‘can I use it? Can I tape it up and use it?’” Pouliot said with a laugh. “I said ‘sure, man.’ And he went out and scored two goals that game.
“I think it was just one of the sticks I have as a backup. Just grabbed it and went out there and has been playing well with it.”
Malkin scored both of his goals on the backhand in the Pens’ 5-1 win over the Panthers, and he joked afterward that was the first time in his career he’s ever done that.
Then after notching three assists in the following game in Wednesday’s 4-3 win against Washington, Malkin followed that up by scoring another goal on the backhand in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Columbus. He gave the credit to his (or should we say Pouliot's?) blade, which is CCM brand.
“The last three games I scored three goals backhand because I changed my stick,” Malkin said. “I changed my curve. I took Pouliot’s stick. It’s a little bit straighter, and it’s working, we see (laughs). I like it because both sides you can shoot and the backhand, it’s easy too.”
Since changing his stick, Malkin has now recorded three straight games with three or more points for the second time in his career – the last time being Feb. 7-10, 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are the only other players to record multiple three-game streaks with three or more points since the 2007-08 season.
“It’s pretty amazing to see,” said Pouliot, who also scored against the Blue Jackets. “He goes out there, scores a couple goals. He’s been scoring a lot lately with it. So it’s pretty cool how he can just kind of pick up a stick when it’s not what he’s used to and do well with it. I think he might have taken a couple more and taped them up different lengths and stuff."
While Crosby is known for his absolutely wicked backhand – which is better than a lot of players’ forehands – Malkin never felt as comfortable shooting from that side of his blade. It was something he was looking to improve, and now he’s done that just by tweaking with his twig.
So as if Malkin, one of the best players in the game, wasn’t already dangerous enough, now he feels like even more of a threat with the puck on his stick.
“If I have a chance on my backhand now I know it’s a good chance to score,” Malkin said. “I try to shoot every time when I have the puck close to the net on my backhand. I just shoot, you know? Both sides of my stick, my curve, it’s Pouliot’s stick I took three games ago and it’s working.”
Malkin finished with two goals and an assist on Sunday to extend his point streak to five games – where he’s collected 11 points (5G-6A) over that span. In addition to his new stick, Malkin credited his new line configuration with Chris Kunitz and Blake Comeau as a big reason for his success.
“I feel great,” Malkin said. “Changed the stick and just more confidence. I’m starting to score a couple goals, and of course it’s more confidence and how ‘Kuni’ plays, Comeau plays. We’re a good line and we try to move the puck. It’s working right now. Just have to focus every game.”