“They do stuff on the ice that I can’t teach,” head coach Michel Therrien joked. “They play the right way. They have the ability to make fantastic plays. But what is important - and they understand - is that they have to play the right way, the way that our team wants to play to get success. That’s the thing that amazes me with those guys.”
The duo ranks 1-2 in the National Hockey League scoring race and both recently received additional honors – Crosby as the player of the week and Malkin as a player of the month for November.
But with all the accolades and accomplishments the two are still missing something – a catchy nickname.
“That’s for you guys to decide,” Crosby said. “I’ve never made a nickname for myself. I’m not going to start now. I’m sure whatever they come up with is fine.”
The team’s broadcast tandem of Paul Steigerwald, play-by-play, and Bob Errey, color analyst, coined the term “two-headed monster,” a polycephalic reference straight from the pages of Homer. Malkin gave the moniker his approval.
“I like it,” Malkin said with a grin. “It’s good.”
Classic Greek insinuations aside, the pair's success this season has been epic. Through 23 games, Malkin leads the NHL with 39 points and Crosby is second with 34. If they continue at their current pace, they will accomplish a feat of historical proportions.
Only twice in the past 20 years have teammates finished 1-2 in the NHL scoring race – and both times involved the Penguins. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr finished 1-2 in 1995-96, and Lemieux and Kevin Stevens were 1-2 in 1991-92.
Since expansion in 1967, the only other teammate tandems to finish 1-2 include Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, Edmonton’s Gretzky and Paul Coffey, and Boston’s Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.
Being mentioned in the same breath as players like Lemieux, Gretzky and Orr is quite a distinction. Teammate Miroslav Satan believes they are worthy of such merit.
In fact, he thinks that Malkin and Crosby are the best players in the world right now.
“Definitely, without a doubt,” said Satan, who has seen a lot during his 13-NHL seasons. “They’re proving it game by game. It’s great to be able to see that and be a part of it also.”
Malkin humbly sees it a little differently.
I’m not the best. Sid is the best. It's easy to play with Sid. - Evgeni Malkin
“I’m not the best,” Malkin said. “Sid is the best. (Alexander) Ovechkin is the best. Sid is a good skater. He makes good passes all the time. It’s easy to play with Sid. We’re playing great right now.”
“When we’re together we try to make things happen,” Crosby said. “We want to lead by example. We want to make sure that every night we’re creating chances. We want to make sure that we’re gaining momentum, getting opportunities. I think we both try to make sure that every game we’re consistent and try to produce as much as possible.”
The two have had no trouble producing this season. Aside from leading the league in scoring, Malkin has an NHL-best 29 assists and was named to the NHL’s “Three Stars” of the Month
for his seven goals and 16 assists (23 points) in November.
Malkin has registered at least one point in 20 of Pittsburgh’s 23 games this season, including a 13-game point streak. During that span, he notched an assist in 13-straight games - the longest streak in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr’s 16-game streak in 2001.
“I feel good and play great,” Malkin said.
Crosby is tied for third in the NHL in goals (13) and assists (21). He was recently named the league’s first star in the NHL’s “Three Stars” of the Week
. Crosby led all NHL scorers for the week with nine points on six goals and three assists. He had multiple points in all three games, culminating with his second career hat trick and four-point game against New Jersey on Nov. 29.
“It’s nice,” Crosby said of the honor. “It was a good week. I think I’m playing well, taking advantage of my chances when I get them. It’s just a matter of capitalizing on the chances that I get.”
“He’s on top of his game right now,” Therrien said of Crosby. “The last 10 days he’s been phenomenal out there. He’s skating; he’s creating; he’s in a good frame of mind. He really picked up his game. He’s tough to contain right now. Shift after shift, he’s creating something on the ice.”
Crosby and Malkin play together on the power play and on a line from time to time. They’ve been the proverbial aces in Therrien’s deck of cards. When the team is behind or needs a spark, the Penguins coach unites the two.
It’s hard to focus on one of us when we’re both out there. Hopefully, we create some space for each other. - Sidney Crosby
“It’s fun; that’s really the best way to describe it,” Crosby said of playing with Malkin. “We play together on the power play and we’ve been lucky to play a few shifts five-on-five and four-on-four. We can go out there and make some plays that other teams don’t always expect. The nice thing is that it’s hard to focus on one of us when we’re both out there. Hopefully, we create some space for each other.”
The two nearly single-handedly turned a defeat into victory Nov. 26 at Nassau Coliseum. The New York Islanders led 3-1 in the third period when the “two-headed monster” completely took over the game. Malkin setup Crosby to make it a 3-2 game. Then Malkin netted a natural hat trick with three-straight goals – two of which were assisted by Crosby. Malkin returned the favor by setting up four of Crosby's five goals in the next two games.
“You can see the last few games, we were down in some games and they were able to turn the game around in one period basically,” Satan said. “We’re a very lucky team to have guys like that. It’s great to see. All of us can be proud.”
Malkin and Crosby have proven that they can carry the Penguins if they have to. They’ve accepted their leadership role with Pittsburgh, and with the “two-headed monster” leading the way there’s no telling how far the Penguins could go.
“We’re being led by Crosby and Malkin,” Therrien said. “Those two guys are pretty phenomenal right now. Those two guys together have put on quite a show.”NHL's "Three Stars" of the Week - 11/24-11/30NHL's "Three Stars" of the Month - November