Maxime Talbot is not your prototypical goal-scoring machine.
Rather than dancing through defenders for a highlight-reel goal, Talbot’s game is played in the corners of the rink or behind the net, digging and fighting battles for the puck.
However, it’s a style that suits the gritty Penguins center.
“I get different kinds of goals, but it feels great,” he said. “It’s just doing the little things right, but that’s how you get some goals and win some games as a team.”
He’s right. And, those “little things” include working hard, driving to the net and basically creating chaos in front of an opponent’s goal.
“The goalies are good. You need to get in their face to score some goals,” he said. “If they can see a shot if it’s coming from far, they are going to stop it. So, you really need to drive to the net and get in there to score some goals. That’s the way I usually do it and that’s the way everybody should do it – drive to the net, get in the goalie’s face and in his head so he is less secure and that’s how you score some goals. I can’t really deke three guys and go and put it in the net. My style is to drive the net and crash.”
So, instead of laser-like slapshots or pin-point wristshots, Talbot thrives on deflections and tip-ins.
While that style may not seem glamorous for many, a goal is still a goal – no matter how you score it. And, Talbot is smiling as his hard work and aggressiveness have enabled him to lead the Penguins with four goals through the team’s first five games.
That puts Talbot on a torrid pace of 66 goals in 82 games.
“Oh yeah, I expect nothing more than 60 or 70 goals,” he said with a laugh. “To be serious, it’s great right now. I am just riding the ride. It’d be even better if my goals were coming in winning situations like in Toronto. It was fun to get goals, but I’d rather not score and win the game instead.”
Talbot doesn’t look like your typical goal-scorer. Well, historically not many have had a Fuman Chu moustache like Talbot’s, anyway.
“I hope it’s not only the Fuman Chu that is behind all my goals,” he said with a laugh. You need to be loose to play hockey. Right now, it’s definitely working for me. I will definitely keep the Fuman Chu for a while. Maybe I will have to shave it if we start winning more games. Right now, it’s working, so I’d hate to lose it.”
While Talbot’s recent scoring touch may be a surprise to some – he had 18 goals in 123 NHL games entering this season – he came into the pro ranks with quite a resume. During his last season of junior hockey with Gatineau, he finished third in the QMJHL scoring race. Twice, he received the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the MVP of the QMJHL playoffs. In addition, he represented Team Canada at the 2004 World Junior Championships. That squad included current Penguins Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury as well as Penguins prospect Tim Brent.
Will Talbot’s scoring pace merit a promotion to the top line along with Crosby?
“If I am asked to get that job, I would definitely get in there and be really happy with it,” he said. “I am happy and comfortable with where I play.”
That’s on the Penguins third or fourth lines, where he serves as a key energy player.
Talbot’s value goes far beyond that, though. His steady two-way game makes him a very important component of the Penguins’ penalty-killing units.
“We’re working on our penalty killing and I think we’re getting better as the year goes on,” he said. “Two years ago, we were weak in the PK and last year we struggled, but finished better. This year, I think we’re on the right path. We know what to do. If we battle and skate and play as fiercely and desperately as we can, we won’t get penalties. If we skate and control the game, the other team is going to have the penalties.”
So, Talbot will continue to play his game and hope to score more goals – and keep the razor away.
“Personally, I feel great out there right now. Hopefully, it’s going to keep on going,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s not just luck and it is a matter of just doing the little things right that is making me successful right now. So, I hope to keep doing that – and keep my Fuman Chu.”