Feisty Evgeni Malkin will be the NHL's next young star
Posted: Wednesday March 1, 2006 1:30PM; Updated: Wednesday March 1, 2006 3:22PM
Nasty combination: Evgeni Malkin served notice in Turin that he has the smarts and physicality to make an impact in the NHL.
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How good was teenaged Russian Evgeni Malkin in Turin? When he wasn't the team's second best forward behind Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, he was its best.
Yeah, he was that good.
After a slow start to the tournament, Malkin adjusted to the pace and proved his value at both ends of the ice. He impressed with his creativity, vision and a style of physical play that bordered on the downright nasty. At times, he looked like a cross between Mark Messier and Bobby Smith. And remember, this was a 19-year-old kid playing for the first time both with and against truly elite talent.
Fans wondering how Malkin would stack up against the marvelously gifted Alexander Ovechkin got their answer. He's exciting in a different way -- Malkin will never match the foot speed and finish of the Washington star, but its easy to picture him being the type of player who can lead a team to the Stanley Cup.
Considering the Penguins lost the 2004 draft lottery, Malkin looks like a pretty decent consolation prize.
Fall of the Kings
You can expect the Kings to put on a brave face, but their playoff dreams are a longer shot than Terrence Howard at Sunday's Oscar telecast. Although they stand seventh coming out of the break, Los Angeles has dropped 12 of its last 17 and lost two key players, Pavol Demitra and Alexander Frolov, at the Olympics.
The team is claiming that Frolov is suffering from a partially separated shoulder -- an explanation that sounds about as legitimate as being partially pregnant. Although he's described as week to week, it's probably going to be a month until he's ready to roll.
Fortunately, it appears that Demitra -- the key to any hopes the team has of finishing in the top eight -- could be back as soon as this weekend after suffering a broken nose and bleeding behind his eye after taking a puck in the face.
Still, with a power play that ranks 26th -- and a PK that's even worse at 29th --the deck is stacked against the Kings. Don't expect any major player moves to shake things up before the deadline, but don't be surprised if Andy Murray coaches his last game for the Kings on April 17, either.
Murray's done a great job with the team, instilling a work ethic and commitment to defense that will be a basis for any future success. He's made the Kings a hard team to play against. But it's obvious that his act is wearing thin and his players are starting to tune him out. After two consecutive playoff misses, a third should make it clear that it's time for a new hand on the wheel.