After Sidney Crosby took a vicious cross check during the first period of game three against the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins have ruled out Crosby for game four of the series. With Crosby’s history of concussions, one could imagine that this might be a longer term issue than just game four. This is the time when the team’s other superstar, Evgeni Malkin, will have the spotlight on him.
If you take a look inside the numbers, Malkin has thrived without Crosby in the lineup. In 118 career games in which Crosby was not in the lineup, he has 66 goals and 154 points. That’s an average of 1.31 points per game, wich would have led the league in scoring this year. “Geno” has the type-A personality that GM’s love their superstars to have, but it’s not always to come out when you have the best player in the world on your team. Even though Crosby is out for game 4, you can see from the betting reviews courtesy of SportsBettingExperts.com, that the Penguins are still the favorites to win tonight. Among active players, only Crosby (52) and Jaromir Jagr (50), have more career multi-point playoff games than Malkin’s 43.
It will be interesting to see how the Capitals will play Malkin. Will fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin finish his checks on him all night, or will they try to keep Malkin in front of them? Either way, the Capitals will need to stay out of the penalty box. Of Malkin’s 52 career playoff goals, 22 have come on the powerplay. You can’t afford to give him opportunities when down a man. Don’t forget that “Geno” is an underrated passer, and with guys like Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist on the ice during the man advantage, he’s not just a guy who will shoot to score. He can find the open man.
Malkin already leads the playoffs in scoring with 15 points. The question is, how much more can he do for the Penguins with Crosby out indefinitely?