Malkin ‘Focused,’ Understands Window is Closing

Penguins center opens up about age, dedication to offseason

Josh Rowntree
September 13, 2019 - 12:01 pm
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin at training camp in 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Evgeni Malkin can see the end of the Penguins’ core group coming, but knows there is still time to add on to his legacy. And that starts with bouncing back.

Malkin had, by his standards, a down year in 2018-2019, scoring 21 goals and assisting 51 more. But, more glaring, was his +/-, which was a career low minus-25, shattering his previous single season low mark of minus-6 in 2009-2010.

“When you have a bad year, you want it back,” Malkin said Friday as the Penguins opened training camp. “Not a great year, last year. I’m not happy, for sure. Now it’s a new challenge for me and I want back to my highest level. I know I can still play at the top level. I want to show everyone I’m not done.”

Malkin started that quest by fine-tuning his body, highlighted in an Instagram post two weeks ago in which Malkin, shirtless, was running on the beach in the photos. 

“I feel great,” he said. “I lost a little bit of weight. I feel like I’m in great shape. I’m excited to show everything. Power skating, stick handling, scoring, playing (in the defensive) zone, face-offs. I just want to get back to my top level.”

His highest profile teammate, Sidney Crosby, understands Malkin’s recommitment to his craft, though he wants to make sure that Malkin, and everyone, is aware that ‘Geno’s’ struggles were not contained to only No. 71. 

“Everyone goes through different points in the season when sometimes it comes easier than others,” Crosby said. “You continue to compete and work through it. Other guys went through things last year, too. I think it’s a fresh start for everybody. I think everyone’s excited about that. 

“We weren’t happy with the way things finished. Geno’s competitive and he expects a lot out of himself. I’m sure he’s excited to get a clean slate, too.”

The Penguins were swept by the Islanders out of the first round of the playoffs in the spring, an abrupt ending to a topsy-turvy season in which, at times, Pittsburgh looked in danger of missing the postseason and, at more rare times, looked good enough to make a run at a third Stanley Cup in three years. 

The core group that carried Pittsburgh to back-to-back titles is getting older. There’s no denying that. One of those pieces, Phil Kessel, was shipped out this offseason. A quicker, more two-way responsible Penguins squad should be expected. And Malkin will need to hold up his end of his $9.5 million salary cap hit if Pittsburgh is to return to glory. 

“I’m focused, every day,” Malkin said. “I want to do all my best, work hard on ice and off ice, talk to coach a little bit more and just be professional. I know, I’m 33 years old. There’s young guys here. I want to be a leader here. 

“We have a great team, again. We have a couple, maybe two, three or four chances to win again. Not many more years I’m playing in the NHL, I understand that. I want to just have fun and enjoy it every day.”

Hear more from Evgeni Malkin below.

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