The other red-hot Russian
Alex Ovechkin's certainly been getting his fair share of attention lately, and especially around here, but Evgeni Malkin's been as good as anyone in the NHL in the New Year.
With four more points today in a win over the Flyers, Malkin's now tied for second in the NHL scoring race with 73 points in 56 games, and he's been on a torrid pace the past few weeks with Sid Crosby out of the lineup.
In his last 17 games, Malkin has an incredible 16 goals and 32 points, a 77-goal, 154-point pace over a full season. He's also plus-11 over that stretch.
Given the cast around him in Pittsburgh, Malkin's been a bit of a forgotten man in league circles so far, only being named to the all-star game as an injury replacement and not garnering much ink at all. Part of that likely stems from his inability to speak English, something takes him out of the spotlight and away from postgame interviews, but given he's 21 years old and in only his second season, the fact he might now win the scoring race will become a major story.
I get the feeling that when Crosby's in the lineup, Malkin's a little sheltered from all the fuss and even kept away from top checkers, but now the Penguins need him more than ever — and boy has he been terrific. In King of Russia, Dave King's book about coaching in Magnitogorsk, the coach describes the way Malkin beats defenders by saying he "evaporates" past them — and I can't think of a more apt way to illustrate just how dynamic he is.
I didn't even include Malkin in my Hart Trophy poll last weekend, but by the looks of it, he's becoming more and more of a candidate every week.