There are a lot of people you can point fingers at in the Penguins locker room after the Penguins were outplayed for the third straight game and saw the Islanders tie the series last night at Nassau County Coliseum. Marc-Andre Fleury is the first casualty of criticism after a lackluster performance in Game 5.
While everyone sees another inadequate performance from Fleury in the playoffs, which for many seems to be turning into a trend, another player had a bad game. One that has underperformed during the season and while he does try to create scoring chances, he ended up being another reason why the Penguins lost last night.
Evgeni Malkin is a talented athlete. There is no denying that he is the Penguins best player next to Sidney Crosby. If there is anyone on that squad that can score a big goal at the most convenient time, it's him. He is also that kind of player that can be aggressive, try to make too many big plays and can find himself playing stupid hockey.
This has not been Malkin's best season. For many fans, they try to make every excuse for the seven year veteran. Geno can make magic in the offensive zone, but he can also create nightmares on the defensive side of the Penguins game.
Bad passes, and taking dumb penalties during the game (we all know the officials will always see the retaliation hit during the play) are a few of the downfalls of his play during the 48 game season and four games into this series.
This is where Malkin apologists would start making excuses for him. The best one we've heard is that his bad, blind passes are due to him not being used to a smaller NHL rink after playing on Olympic-sized rinks in the KHL during the lockout.
You can't use the language barrier as an excuse anymore. It's 2013. The 2006 Malkin who barely talked to the media and couldn't speak English doesn't fly. It may not be great English Malkin speaks, but he's been in the league long enough.
Once in a while, there will be the "what if" question when it come to Malkin and Crosby. Who would you keep if you had to trade one away?
For those who choose Malkin, they'll make the argument that Crosby is more injury prone and Malkin is the better goal scorer, often bypassing the reality that Crosby is a better leader on and off the ice for this squad. Crosby has taken blows to the head, a puck to the jaw and had a high ankle sprain years back, but has always come back as a leader and a difference maker in the lineup.
It's time for Malkin to start taking accountability for his actions. He wants to be a leader? Great. Start acting like one. Take responsibility like 87 does. Geno's not a 20 year-old rookie anymore. It's time he started acting like an assistant captain, not just because he has the most points on the team, but taking on a role like Crosby does.
Maturity goes a long way. It can go hand-in-hand with the strong effort Malkin gives on the ice.