Evgeni Malkin Would Like a Word With You
An exclusive interview with the Penguins’ enigmatic superstar.
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"What I like about America is that people are different. If you have problem, people help you always."
Smiling Like a Butcher’s Dog
Those closest to Geno are happy to see him grinning again. After missing half of last season with a torn ACL and MCL (following a disappointing 2010 campaign), Malkin was devastated.
“First time I didn’t play in playoffs,” he says. “It was hard on me. Sid couldn’t play, I couldn’t play. I talked with Sid, we stay with team always and watch team together.” During a pivotal Game 4 against Tampa Bay, the tension of the moment spilled over when the game went to overtime and snake-bitten sniper James Neal dramatically broke his scoring drought.
“Most times Sid and I watched quiet,” Malkin says. “Of course, when Nealsy scored in overtime we jump around and celebrate.”
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay would fight back to win the series as Malkin watched helplessly from behind the scenes. It’s easy to tell that the early exit still bothers Malkin, who was planning to attempt a gutsy comeback if the Penguins made it to the next round. Those who believe the stereotype that foreign players don’t care as much about the Stanley Cup would do well to spend five minutes with Malkin.
“I want to win more Stanley Cups, not just one,” he says. “Because I read newspaper and sometimes people say if you win one Stanley Cup, you’re lucky. They say maybe we won Game 7 against Detroit because we’re lucky. I need to win again. Second time, more important.”
Gonchar, whose Moscow apartment is on the same floor as Malkin’s, and who trains with him every summer, sees the fire, too. “He’s maturing and feeling a lot more responsibility for the team,” Gonchar says. “This summer, he never missed a workout. You can see he’s really got his mind into it now.”
It’s almost unfathomable to think that Malkin, just 25, has won every major trophy in the NHL, except one: the Hart Memorial Trophy for regular season MVP. But can he regain the goal-scoring form that won him the Art Ross trophy as the league’s scoring champion in 2009? It’s a point of pride for the Penguins organization, which has claimed the trophy a preposterous 13 times in the past 23 seasons.
“Maybe this year I win,” Malkin says sheepishly, looking down and shaking his head. “But if Crosby play, I can’t win. Sid always win.”
There’s the laughter again. Geno disappears into the weight room for more punishment but turns back with a final request.
“Tell fans thank you for supporting Penguins and Steelers,” he says. “And sorry for my English.”
Geno’s come full circle. He’s Pittsburgh through and through. He’s caring to a fault. His gruffness is his charm. He bleeds for the things he loves.
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