In September, local media tabloids were filled with headlines such as “Malkin is injured again! The most hotheaded Russian center fails to get into the winter Olympics!”. The reasons for concern were truly valid: the number of matches Evgeni participated in got smaller, while the number of reasons to worry about his health increased. By the way, since 2009, Pittsburgh has never been able to make a full season in the NHL because of the hockey players’ injuries.
The Olympics will be without NHL, but at least Pittsburgh have Malkin
The current season had hardly started when Malkin got right back into the hospital – this time with a knee injury. The last match with Malkin was on the 27th of May. The confrontation with the Islanders ended not with a bang but with a whimper: Evgeni had to have surgery and long months of recovery. Meanwhile, the team retained their high place in the standings by ending ten matches with a positive result in a row. It seems as if the club does not even need their centre player that much. But it is not so.
After Malkin’s injury, nobody’s predictions were good, but there was still hope for a favourable outcome. That is exactly what happened: Evgeni Malkin returned with a triumph, proving that he is back in the game with one match.
Evgeni came back to the ice rink in almost perfect physical shape. But the problem with the Olympics, which Malkin so wanted to go to, solved itself: this year, NHL is not going to Beijing. And it is sad, considering all the hockey stars of this season. Just take Shipachyov alone! Experienced betters were prepared for betting on hockey, taking into account the specialists’ predictions and having identified favourites. But we have to accept the reality and adapt to it: the National Hockey League officially announced the decision on the 22nd of December. The fans were waiting for this event, and not everyone appreciated the announcement made just before Christmas. The pandemic had its impact on the Olympics: covid cases among NHL hockey players have become more frequent. This was the reason for a decision like this. The head coach of the Russian national team said that this news was the most crushing blow for such stars as Alexander Ovechkin and Alexey Malkin. After all, the Olympics is the Olympics – no one wants to miss such a significant event in the world of sports.
The secret to success is listen to the coach?
Evgeni Malkin really set teeth onto coming back: the hockey player was determined to show that it’s not just Nikita Kucherov that can unite the team and make an epic comeback after a break. Malkin’s results in the debut match were impressive: four shots ended with scoring two goals and one assist. The player was surrounded by the journalists who were asking one single question: how is it possible to return to hockey so easily and simply after a break? Evgeny replied that it was indeed really simple – all you need to do is listen to the coach, who assured him that everything would be fine. Let’s assume that Malkin was being a little modest, and the secret to success is not only in the confidence of the team’s coach. Although having the right attitude is certainly important.
The match: how did it go
The army of hockey fans marked the day of this match in their calendars. Evgeni Malkin’s first match after injury, “Pittsburgh”, which kept cool and beautifully outplayed the rivals for a long time, and strong opponents – all parts of the equation came together. The degree of expectation reached its maximum. Did the Anaheim Ducks fans feel the same excitement?
The star of the evening – Evgeni Malkin – entered the ice rink proudly and independently. It’s as if there were no long months of waiting. The Russian hockey player defended the team’s honour together with stars Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter. By the way, Malkin did not play as the man who hasn’t stepped on ice since May at all. And the onlookers breathed a sigh of relief after noticing it: after all, the show had just begun.
As Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan nervously admitted before the match – all hockey players admired Malkin’s zeal. And it was clear that the professional was not saying this for effect or to calm down himself, the fans or the team. He does think so. And it’s true: the hockey player practically spent all his time on the ice, trying to show first-class performance in any move. Playing in the first lineup, pre-game training – every element was used to get him back on track. It is as if Malkin was trying to catch up on everything he had missed during the eight-month break. And it seems that he succeeded.
It is said that one should take the bull by the horns from the start. And that is what Malkin did, starting the game off aggressively, in a good sense. A threatening throw towards the Anaheim Ducks in the first minutes of the game impressed everyone – he did it free and easy, almost jokingly. Before the match, the public was saying that the return of Evgeni Malkin could deprive the squad of unity and team chemistry. But after this gesture, it became clear that, on the contrary, Malkin would unite the team even more.
There was one unpleasant moment, but without it, it would not have been as interesting – Evgeny missed a goal from Jakob Silfverberg. However, 6 minutes later, he scored a second goal for the joy of the roaring crowd. This episode was immediately highlighted on Twitter: the player just came back and already made the match count. But to be fair, this is not the first time Malkin has made such an impressive comeback. Perhaps he wanted to repeat Kucherov’s record: Russian striker set two historical records at once and was recognized as the best sniper of Tampa. But that would be too much even for Malkin. Of course, the forward of Pittsburgh could not leave the audience without a beautiful ending. He gave a successful assist to Jeff Carter in the match’s final minutes.
Well, the evening did turn out to be a success for Pittsburgh: in addition to the return of the King of Penguins, Crosby, Malkin, and Letang celebrate their 16th season together.
Yes, “Pittsburgh” interrupted a ten match winning streak. However, Malkin’s return is a reason to make an even more significant figure and set a new record. The main thing is that the team has all the resources to do this.