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Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin’s statistics offer a pretty stark dichotomy through two games of his team’s qualifying round series with the Montreal Canadiens.
Prior to Tuesday’s games, he led the postseason with 15 shots. Yet, he has yet to record a single point.
Coach Mike Sullivan appears to put far more weight in the first figure.
“(Malkin) has been good,” Sullivan said via video conference from Toronto on Tuesday. “He’s generated a significant amount of scoring chances. The puck hasn’t gone in the net for him. My discussion with (Malkin) is just to make sure you stay with it. It takes that stick-to-itiveness and belief in his overall game and just trust in the process. And he’ll end up on the scoresheet.
“He’s not playing a high-risk game. He’s playing a straight-ahead game. It hasn’t been for a lack of opportunity that the puck hasn’t gone in the net for him. He’s just going to have to stay with it. His line is going to have to stay with it. And we believe that they’ll get on the scoreboard.”
Primarily skating on a line with Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker during five-on-five play, Malkin has led the Penguins in shots during Games 1 (eight) and Game 2 (seven).
Rookie makes impression
Right behind Malkin during Game 2 was rookie defenseman John Marino, who fired a career-best six shots.
While he too has yet to record a point this postseason, he has averaged a robust 23 minutes, 43 seconds of ice time per game and has offered sturdy defense in the eyes of his coach.
“He’s big, strong and he’s mobile,” Sullivan said. “That really helps his overall defensive game. He has the ability to use his physical stature to create separation from the puck, to box out in front of the net, to win puck battles in the battle areas. And he’s strong and he’s big.
“He’s got a long reach. His mobility really helps him. He closes on (opponents) and takes time and space away from an offensive player as good as any defenseman that we have. For those reasons, I think that’s why he’s as good of a defender as he is. I also think with having played close to a full season under his belt, his reads are better.
“Usually when players first enter the league, the game goes on pretty fast in their minds. And as they gain experience with each additional game that they play, that game that they process in their brain slows down a little bit. It allows them to utilize anticipation skills and things of that nature. I don’t think John is any different in that regard. The experience that he’s had through the amount of games that he’s played to this point has helped him just with his reads and anticipating and seeing the game clearer. When you combine that with his physical stature and his physical attributes, it bodes well for a guy who’s a pretty good defending defenseman.”
As one of the youngest players on the roster, Marino has leaned on his veteran teammates during his debut postseason.
“Each game is still a learning experience,” said Marino, 23. “Obviously, with the experience on this team, you just kind of try to pick their brains. They’ve been through it a couple of times. You just try to learn from them. Each game you just try to build off of.”
On the road
After serving as the home team for Games 1 and 2 in Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Penguins will be designated as the road team in Games 3 and 4 and will have to make the first change before faceoffs.
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Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Penguins/NHL | Sports