Best player beating best goalie?

BREAKING: Evgeni Malkin is now the NHL’s points leader.

This is not up for dispute as having the more points than everyone else is a pretty good barometer for who the top scorer is. However, I’m now starting to think that Evgeni Malkin is the best player in the world (his concussed teammate notwithstanding).

Sid vs. Ovie? Perhaps we had the wrong Russian after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Ovechkin, Steve Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, Marian Gaborik, Phil Kessel (gas, meet fire), Shea Weber, Loui Eriksson and every other very talented player I don’t have the energy to list right now. If the NHL is suffering from anything, it’s not from a bevvy of talent – you talk to the KHL about that. With all of these guys in mind, I’m still thinking that Geno is the man with the plan when you’re ranking the NHL’s best right now.

Sid vs. Geno? That has a nice ring to it, too bad they’re on the same team.

The fact is that Malkin has been downright possessed since returning from a brutal season last year. He was a guy I had on my shortlist of bounceback players heading into 2011-12 and he’s been nothing but spectacular. From the first pre-season game he appeared in it was evident that he was bringing it this year and even with a couple of hiccups he has not disappointed.

Some stats for your consideration:
54 points in 39 games – Rougly 1.4 PPG
Six game winning goals
Points in 29 of 39 games without being held scoreless for more than two consecutive games.

To recap those above numbers, we have a guy who is:
a) Prolific
B) Clutch
C) Consistent

All of those things are hallmarks of a spectacular player.

Let’s not forget he’s got the requisite hardware that comes with said distinction. Not only does he have the Stanley Cup ring and gold medal, he’s got the Conn Smythe with his name on it sitting in his living room – make no mistake, he kept it, all others have been fake since – where he no doubt watches game film of himself making people silly.

We’ve talked every week now about how the latest Pens injury is surely going to be the one which buries them, yet, it’s largely due to the efforts of Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury that this team is not only keeping its head above water, but dominating tough opponents. I, for one, didn’t think they would win tonight, but in a tight game heading into the third which guy came up with two goals to ice it for Pittsburgh? Evgeni Malkin. This isn’t a guy having a good game anymore. This is a pattern of behaviour.

Ovechkin gets the headlines and Bryzgalov gets the laughs, but let’s be honest here: Evgeni Malkin is the best Russian hockey player in the world and, as far as I’m concerned here, he’s better than anyone else playing the game in the world.

UPDATE WITH REALLY INTERESTING THOUGHT TWEETED AT ME:

That’s pretty compelling if you ask me. There’s a very good argument to be made that Lindros was the most dominant player on the earth during a stretch in the 1990s and Malkin is, by many accounts, playing at a level as high – if not higher – than Lindros ever did. Let’s not forget he has a fantastic supporting cast and the hardware to back him up. That’s a pretty good sign of how well you’re playing and an even better sign that you’re probably the best hockey player on the planet.

Comments (9)

  1. There is this guy named Pavel Datsyuk, look him up….there may be a Youtube video or two of him.

    I can’t believe he isn’t even mentioned in this “best player in the world” article.

    • Just… ugh.

      This isn’t about whose names we can throw out there, it’s about the fact that Evgeni Malkin is on a level miles above everyone else right now and yes, that includes Datsyuk.

      YouTube videos don’t accurately capture what makes Datsyuk great. It’s not about the fact he can dangle people.

      • So, what you’re saying is that the player with the most points = best player in the world? I think most would agree.

        You do qualify him as one of the best players out there but there are a handful of players that score a lot. Then there is the list of truly special, once in a generation-type players like Selanne, Lidstrom, Brodeur, Datsyuk, and yes…even Crosby. I don’t believe that Malkin fits on the aforementioned list. Then again, your article is just about the best player in the world right now, right?

        • While I agree that with Crosby on the shelf, Datsyuk is the second-best player in the world just behind Malkin (and better than the collection vying for 3rd by a comfortable margin), your minimizing of Malkin is risible. Your talking down about a (soon to be twice) art ross winner, a conn smythe winner (who posted more playoff points in his cup run that anybody not named Mario or Wayne, while, iirc, leading in takeaways) and one of, I think, four players currently playing to break the 110 point mark twice, two of whom did so only in another era.

          Your citation of youtube highlights is also terrible. Know who else has impressive collections of youtube highlights like Datsyuk? Janne Pesonen, Rob Schremp and Linus Omark. Three minor-leaguers.

    • There are things about Datsyuk’s game that are superlative, namely his vision on the ice. However, that doesn’t qualify you as one of the best players in the world. The best players in the world have the ability to carry their team on their shoulders the way Evgeni Malkin has been doing every night this season. You can’t make a compelling argument that the Red Wings are dependent on Pavel Datsyuk the way the Penguins depend on Malkin, or the Flyers on Giroux, or the Leafs on Kessel. Detroit isn’t that kind of team and Datsyuk isn’t that kind of player.

      • Datsyuk sat out the game against the Islanders this year. The Wings lost. Coincidence? I think not.

        • He played in all the other ones the Wings lost to the Islanders over the last few years, did he not?

  2. There’s an important difference between the the best hockey player on he planet, and the player currently playing the best hockey on the planet. I’m not entirely sure which one you are trying to claim.

    Geno is the latter. He’s a huge talent, no doubt, and gets overshadowed by Sid but even if you ignore Crosby he’s not the best hockey player on the planet.

    Comparing Malkin to Lindros is….odd. Completely different players. Malkin doesn;t have anything near the power and physical dominance Lindros had, and Lindros didn’t have anything close to the skill level Malkin has.

  3. I don’t know how often you watch the Pens, but as a diehard fan I watch every game. Admittedly that makes me biased, but I also think I’m knowledgeable enough to be objective. That being said, when Malkin is at the top of his game, as he is now, he IS physically dominant. He plays with a mean streak, throwing heavy body checks and getting into scrums (ask Datsyuk’s buddy Zetterberg). More importantly, he uses his size and physicality to get to loose pucks, open space and maneuver around defenders. At his best, Malkin is a bull in a china shop. Add in an incredible vision and hockey IQ, great hands, the league lead in takeaways, his role as an assistant captain despite still being barely fluent in English, and the fact that he has carried this team on his back every time Sid has been out and I’d say you have a pretty solid case that he’s not only playing the best hockey right now, but is flat out the best player in the world.

    I have trouble saying he’s better than Crosby. I think people forget the kind of season Crosby was having last season. At the pace he was on through the half season he played, he would have won the scoring race by something like 30 points and the Richard Trophy by about 10-12 goals. He was simply miles above the rest of the hockey world last season before his concussions. However, even before this season, I think a lot of Pens fans have considered Crosby the best player in the world and Malkin, at worst, 3rd or 4th (along with Ovechkin before he was kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a less effective replicant and Datsyuk). I think a lot of fans also realized though that Malkin might be the most naturally gifted player in the world. At times, he does things that I doubt even Crosby can do (see his spin-o-rama HT goal in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009). Malkin has an Art Ross, Calder, Conn Smythe (while scoring the most postseason points since before the dead puck era) and Stanley Cup. There’s a good chance he’ll add another Ross this year and possibly a Hart. Datsyuk simply doesn’t match Geno’s production, notoriety, or ability to carry a team. Sorry, but the two best players in the world both play for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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