Evgeni Malkin understands that this is a stressful time for Penguins fans, as the team blew a 3-0 lead on Tuesday in Ottawa and with it, a chance to clinch a playoff spot that night – which means their fate still has yet to be determined with two games left in the season.
But despite their less-than-ideal situation, Malkin was adamant following Thursday’s practice that everything is going to work out just fine.
“Each team tries to beat us, but I believe in this group so much. Every player here,” Malkin said. “We work hard every practice. A little bit of bad luck the last two games, but I still believe we play in playoffs and it doesn’t matter which team.”
The Pens are in control of their destiny heading into their last couple of contests on Friday against the NY Islanders and Saturday in Buffalo. Because it doesn’t matter what the Senators and Boston Bruins do – if the Penguins get three points over their next two games, they’re in. And Malkin is confident they will be.
“I know everyone is nervous right now, but we talked to the team, we talked to the players, and said it’s a tough situation, we know, but we’re still in,” he said. “We’re still in playoffs and I’ve played here a long time, it’s the first time (I’ve gone through this), but we need to work and just win the next two games, forget the situation and start playing in the playoffs.”
The Penguins have been mired in a slump, as they’re currently on a four-game losing streak and have gone 3-9-2 in 14 games since March 14. But Malkin said heading into the weekend, they need to forget about what’s happened over the last few weeks and focus on the task ahead.
“We try to forget the last month, I think. Just look forward,” he said. “Yeah, maybe we didn’t play great (Tuesday in Ottawa). Everyone understands. But we just look forward again. I know we play in (playoffs).”
The biggest key for his team tomorrow against the Islanders, said Malkin, is discipline – and it wouldn’t hurt to get support from the crowd as well.
“We took a couple bad penalties last game and they scored,” he said. “(Don’t) talk to refs, just focus the whole game; whole 60 minutes. Just play together. Support each other.
“Tomorrow we play at home, I hope fans go crazy. Just keep going. Play our game. Have fun.”
When the Pens were going through another rough stretch earlier in the year, Malkin was also vocal in saying that his team would be just fine.
As the 28-year-old put it then, “When you lose a couple games and aren’t playing right everyone gets nervous – coaches, players, the organization. (The situation is) not bad, but it’s not good. We know we can come back. I believe this team has good guys and good players. We need to support each other, relax and we’ll be back.”
And he was right, as the Pens went on to go 7-1-1 in their next nine games. So is his advice again to just relax?
“Yeah, always, you know? Just now maybe have fun,” Malkin smiled.