Evgeni Malkin’s Biggest Flaw: Defense


February 13, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) stretches on the ice before playing the Ottawa Senators at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It is pretty safe to say that Evgeni Malkin has been one of the best Pittsburgh forwards since he took the ice for his first game on October 18th, 2006.

Following his NHL Debut, Malkin became one of the most prolific scorers in the league.  At this point in his career, the 27-year-old has put up 560 points (217 G, 343 A) in 458 games.

The former MVP has been honored as an All-Star four times (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012), awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy (2007), Art Ross Trophy twice (2009, 2012) and Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in the 2009 Stanley Cup-winning run.

And while Malkin hasn’t been at his best many times in his career, most of the poor performances can be charged to his numerous nagging injuries.

The Russian native has been an absolute freak on offense due to his slick moves and quickness; however, his defense is one of the biggest problems that has stood out in the past couple seasons.

Throughout the past couple years, Dan Byslma’s system has been criticized as taking away from Malkin’s offensive ability; however, Malkin’s indifference to playing defense has led to his struggles in the defensive zone.

To be successful in Dan Byslma’s system, the center needs to be strong defensively and fast enough to join the rush after his teammates gain possession of the puck.

The center (Malkin) and two defensemen position themselves between opposing forwards and the net when the puck is in their own end.

The system often breaks down when the center cheats up ice anticipating a turnover, leaving his man uncovered and his teammates scrambling to recover.

This is Malkin’s biggest problem when it comes to his play on the ice.

The 27-year-old forward has the tendency to assume the puck is going to bounce his way in an effort to maximize offensive opportunities.  If he reads it wrong, the Penguins end up pinned in their zone, and even worse, the opposing team could score.

Through comparison between Malkin and one of the best defensive forwards in Pavel Datysuk, people can realize the need for improvement in Geno’s defensive game.

Last season, Malkin had a defensive point share of 0.7 to Datysuk’s 2.1 — which means Datysuk contributed more points due to his defense than the Pittsburgh forward did.

Over the past couple seasons, Malkin has also had a poor Corsi number.

Actually in 2009 and 2012, the Penguins’ forward has been in the top-20 worst Corsi numbers.

This pretty much means that more shots were directed at the Pittsburgh goal than at his opponent’s goal while he was on the ice, and this occurred while Malkin was used significantly in offensive situations.

Certainly Malkin can score, but he also shows some very weak underlying defensive puck possession numbers.

“Geno” Malkin has been no doubt, a game-changing player since the Penguins’ drafted him second overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

However, if the star center wants to raise his game and become one of the best players in the history of the NHL, Malkin must improve his defensive play in the coming seasons ahead.