It may have been seven years since the Pens and Caps last met in the postseason, but Evgeni Malkin
still remembers how tough that series was.
“I think it’s the hardest series of my life,” said Malkin, who recorded 10 points as Pittsburgh won in 7 games. “Each game, it’s crazy. Game 7 we played in Washington, and we won 6-2 but it was not an easy game. The first period, (Alex) Ovechkin didn’t score on a breakaway. After, we started to score.”
While it may have been the most difficult series he’s been a part of during his Pens career, Malkin agreed that it may have been the most fun.
“It’s (Sidney Crosby) versus ‘Ovi,’” he smiled. “Lots of commercials. Sid scored a hat trick, Ovi scored a hat trick. I remember my goal in Game 5 in overtime.
“It’s lots of good things. But it’s a long time ago. It’s a new series right now. We look forward.”
And while Nos. 87 and 8 may be the marquee matchup that everyone’s talking about, the Pens will need 71’s play to continue trending upward if they want to have success against the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winner.
After missing the final 15 games and 25 of the last 33 due to injury, Malkin returned to the lineup in Game 2 of the Pens’ opening-round matchup against the New York Rangers.
He went on to finish with 7 points (2G-5A), exploding for two goals and two assists in Game 4. While Malkin evaluated his play as “not bad,” he knows he can continue to improve.
“It’s a good series for us,” Malkin said. “I scored a couple goals. But I think I can play better. I want to play better. It’s hard work every day. If we want to beat Washington, we need to play a hard game.
“It’s the whole team. It’s four lines, defense and goalie. We play against a good team and if we want to beat them, I want to play better, for sure.”
For Pens head coach Mike Sullivan, Malkin is a very important part of the group they have going up against Washington. But he agrees with his franchise center that it’s about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back if the Pens are to move on.
“He’s another one of our guys that is a difference-maker,” Sullivan said. “I know there’s a lot of storylines surrounding this series, but for me, it’s about two good hockey teams going at each other.
“With all due respect to all the individual players, they’re great players, they’re entertaining, they’re fun to watch, they’re terrific players. But for me and from our standpoint, this is about two teams playing against one another.”
Either way, it’s shaping up to be another heck of a ride – and Malkin can’t wait.
“We’ll try to show our best hockey,” Malkin said. “We always step on the ice and enjoy the game. It’s our life. We are enjoying the moment right now. Enjoy the life, try to show our best hockey. I think fans enjoy watching.”