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Greg Thornberry The Hockey Writers

Published on Wednesday, April 6, 2016





Malkin’s Return Will Complicate Matters for Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin is one of the best players on the planet.

He is a former league MVP, scoring champion, and playoff MVP who is in the prime of his career.

He also might find himself playing on the Penguins’ third line.

When Malkin went down with a long-term injury, many people considered the Penguins’ season to be over. Then something crazy happened. Life went on without him. Pittsburgh has found no small amount of success since losing Malkin, and a large part of their breakout has been the play of Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel. Malkin’s linemates.

Nick Bonino has performed admirably in Malkin’s stead, while Hagelin and Kessel have played their best hockey of the season. It would be a huge boost to the Penguins to have one of the premier hockey players in the world return, but how can you mess with success?

This issue has been discussed at length, and some of the solutions are pretty far-fetched. No, they are not going to trade Malkin.

Today we are going to discuss the three most common solutions that are floating around in the world of hockey conversation.

#1. Malkin Plays With Crosby

Why it works.

Going back to the Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr days, the thought of putting arguably the two best players in the world together is intriguing.

Letting these two show their creativity while Chris Kunitz or Patric Hornqvist do the dirty work should strike fear into opponents hearts.

Why it wouldn’t work.

When Crosby and Malkin have played together in the past, it just has not worked well.

Nobody can really explain why it doesn’t work. It could be that there is only one puck and two superstars, or maybe the opposite where they are deferring to one another.

Sadly, what should be an exciting duo just doesn’t produce results.

#2. Malkin Plays With Hagelin and Kessel

Why it works.

I will be brief on this one.

Three exceptionally talented players that are familiar with each other.

Why it wouldn’t work.

Obviously this bit here isn’t going to be about what doesn’t work with Malkin, but what does work with Bonino. During the Penguins strong stretch, Bonino, Hagelin, and Kessel have been the Penguins best line by a mile. Why would you want to break this up?

#3. Malkin Plays on Third Line

Why it works.

The third line in hockey comes with certain stereotypes. People largely associate the third line with role players, grinders, and defensive players. The Penguins are a different type of hockey team that rolls four lines that are capable of scoring.

It would actually be pretty interesting to see Malkin play with Conor Sheary and Beau Bennett. Sheary is a hard-working player with skill and determination. Bennett is a creative playmaker capable of much more than he has shown in his career.

Putting Malkin between these two players would be a pleasure to watch, and an opportunity that Sheary and Bennett have earned.

Why it wouldn’t work.

It is easy to say that the Penguins have three or four scoring lines, but there is only so much ice time to go around. The one thing that you don’t want is to keep Malkin off of the ice. He is too good. Too important. Not to mention that you are paying him a lot of money to play a lot of minutes.

The nice thing about making lineup decisions is that they aren’t set in stone. If it doesn’t work, change things up. The Penguins have a team that is flying high, and they are contemplating how to fit an elite player back onto the ice.

What a problem to have!


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