May 09, 2008
Watching Evgeni Malkin play hockey, you're easily humbled: His total package of natural talent, offensive instincts and brute force haven't been found on display like this since, perhaps, Eric Lindros in junior hockey (back when he could safely skate with his head down). But increasingly, one of the most impressive things about Malkin is his own humility, when it comes to playing in the shadow of Sidney Crosby.
"Sidney Crosby and the Penguins" is something the media very much enjoys repeating. To the point where seeing "Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins" is practically jarring. But while the two are tied in points, is there any doubt that Malkin is the Penguins' MVP right now? There's been talk during Crosby's absence and during this postseason that Malkin has even surpassed Crosby as a player, if not as a star. But Sergei Gonchar told the Tribune-Review that Malkin is content to be one of the Heartbreakers to Sid's Tom Petty:
"Since Day One (Malkin) said he was just going to out there and play his game," Gonchar said. "We speak Russian, obviously, and he can say to me whatever he wants. He never said he was going to be second, or, 'I want to be first.' Sid is a friend and a teammate, they're good buddies, they're spending time together."
Who's been more important to the Penguins this postseason? Crosby's point totals are one thing, but his stature as a captain as grown considerably, with some claiming that he captures "Steve Yzerman's stoicism and Mark Messier's intensity." But as the playoffs continue, this is increasingly becoming Malkin's moment.
He's reached the point at which he becomes more than Pippen to Jordan or Stockton to Malone or Jagr to Mario; the moment when a player goes from co-star to co-headliner.
Currently, there are more than triple the number of Crosby videos on YouTube than there are Malkin videos. That balance may start to tilt, with more offerings like this Malkin "mix-tape" popping up:
Pretty cool stuff, and a nice reminder that Malkin can actually look impressive on a penalty shot after that slow-motion embarrassment against Henrik Lundqvist. But even with this highlight reel, the shadow of Crosby looms large: The user that created the Malkin mix did one for Crosby first (video). Using a Dropkick Murphys song, which means Sidney even had the better soundtrack.