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    Default 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hocke...i-malkin_N.htm



    By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY
    Members of the sports media are always the last to know when Russian NHL players finally master English. Men from Moscow could be regularly entertaining their teammates in the dressing room like they were comedian Lewis Black in concert, but when you ask them for an interview, they will usually wave it off under the flag of "no English."

    But it was clear in September when Evgeni Malkin was part of the preseason NHL star media tour that he had evolved from reluctant Russian interviewee to a young star willing to be fun in two languages. When he was asked who the best player in the NHL was after Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, he impishly wanted to know how many votes he had received before he answered the question.

    When he was asked about switching from center to wing, he explained in a fair amount of detail why it wasn't going to be a problem. Then, he added: "Who knows I may win the scoring title." He laughed at his own boldness.

    As far as indicators go, a playful Malkin was an excellent sign for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The confidence in his language skills and the bravado in his personality would seem to suggest that in his fifth season, Malkin has made the final step toward being all that he can be for the Penguins' organization.

    "It's a different Malkin this year," Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque said. "He is just comfortable, not just around his teammates, but with the media and the North American culture."

    Malkin struggled to speak English early in his career, and even when he was producing 100-plus points per season, there was a sense that his limited ability to communicate was preventing him from maximizing his presence.

    "What I always tell people is let's drop an English-speaking American in the middle of Moscow and see what happens to him," Penguins vice president for communication Tom McMillan said. "We don't think of that, but we should. It can be bewildering. It took tenacity and fortitude just to get here that first summer."

    If Malkin's language study could be viewed in educational terms, it could be said his English degree was probably completed by the second semester of last season.

    "The indication of how well he was communicating in-house with his teammates was last year when (coach Dan Bylsma) gave him 'A'," McMillan said. "You wouldn't name a player as an alternate captain if he had trouble speaking with teammates."

    His graduation ceremony might have come when Malkin received the prestigious Dapper Dan award in Pittsburgh earlier this year and gave his acceptance speech in English in front of 1,000 people. Malkin worked diligently on his speech with Penguins director of communications Jennifer Bullano.

    "I remember coming into the arena and he was in the dressing room practicing that speech," McMillan said. "What that said to me was that it was important to him to try to do it as well as he could."

    He read the speech from a paper, but his humor showed through. "With about two paragraphs to go, he looked up and said: "Only two more," McMillan said. "Then when he got down to one, he said, "Last one." He brought the house down with that."



    Malkin received a standing ovation after his speech. "It was probably 25% for the content of the speech and 75% that he gave it," McMillan said. "He did a good job. He gutted it out. There are people who speak well who can't do that in front of 1,000 people."

    McMillan recalled that he turned to Bullano and said, "This is going to give him confidence whether he admits it or not."

    He started doing television interviews two years ago and did more last season. "And now he doesn't give them a second thought," McMillan said.

    Maybe it's not coincidence that Bylsma decided this summer that it was time to make the long-awaited call to move Malkin semi-permanently from center to wing, although Jordan Staal's injury has prevented implementation of playing Malkin on Staal's wing.

    "It does not matter where I play, it's still hockey," Malkin said. "I like the wing."

    At 6-3, 200, Malkin has the size to handle play along the boards. With his 100 penalty minutes last season, Malkin has proven he has the aggressiveness to hold his own in skirmishes for the puck. But Bylsma certainly isn't moving Malkin to muck and grind. When Staal played wing with Malkin at center, they combined for 62 goals in 2006-07.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]"Malkin is excellent coming off the wing," said former NHL coach Pierre McGuire. "He has great outside speed and has the size and strength to get to the net. His shot is fearsome coming down the wing."[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Bourque, a former Penguins player, likes how Malkin looks on the wing.

    "Deep down, I think that's where he wants to play," Bourque said. "No. 2, he can concentrate more on just being Geno and not have to worry about all of the work you have to do below the circles. No. 3, and this is the least important, he has never been good on face-offs."[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    The original hope was that the move to wing, coupled with Malkin's higher comfort level, would springboard him back to the elevated level of play he had during the 2009 playoffs. Malkin is coming off his worst professional season, netting 28 goals and 77 points in 67 games during an injury-plagued 2009-10 season. He had 113 the previous season.

    "I think he was disappointed with himself over last year," Bourque said. "I think he felt like he let a lot of people down because he didn't have the year like he did before. He seems to be on a bit of mission."

    On the ice, Malkin has not piled up the points, but his nuclear drive is fully engaged.

    "If you watch him every day," Bourque said, "watch him in practice, look at his body language, it just really seems like he has a high focus."

    It was difficult for the Penguins to say goodbye to veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who signed as a free agent with Ottawa last summer. But his exodus might be helping Malkin complete his transformation. The affable Gonchar was the only other Russian on the team. He was Malkin's mentor, but he was also Malkin's crutch. He has no crutch now, but he doesn't need one.

    Bill Guerin is also gone, which means there is more of a need for Malkin to be a vocal leader. He's ready, just like the Pens knew he would be when he had the necessary communication skills.

    "The one thing that coaches always said, was that you understand much quicker than you can speak," McMillan said. "But coaches always said that it was amazing to them that even in Malkin's rookie year, he always understood the drills. Even though he didn't know the words, he was paying attention."

    Malkin always executed drills without making a single mistake.

    Said McMillan: "He completed them better than some guys who spoke English.




    WTF are McGuire & Bourque watching ???

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    Default Re: 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    Yup, sometimes I read an article and be like WTF?

    I don't like Malkin on the wing, he's a natural centerman and should play exactly that.

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    Default Re: 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    Quote Originally Posted by Xterratu View Post
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    Yup, sometimes I read an article and be like WTF?

    I don't like Malkin on the wing, he's a natural centerman and should play exactly that.
    It really doesn't matter what we like X! It's that Gino is about a comfortable @ RW as a Hooker in church!

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    Default Re: 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    Malkin is a natural XCenter and he's a fine 2 way player. Malkin creates the most takeaways on the Pens and is actually one of the ebst in the entire league. The guys that are ahead of Malkin in Takeaways like Pavel Datsyuk are Selke winners. Marian hossa is ahead and he's always been consider an excellent defensive forward.

    A couple of seasons ago when I was probably constantly *****ing about Therrien needing fired and *****ing about the way Malkin was used or underused by therrien his old coach from Russia - Dave King (who is the assistant HC for Phoenix and the guy I wanted to see take over for therrien initially) mentioned in some interviews that he couldn't understand why Malkin wasn't used more defensively and said that Malkin was actually really good in his own zone. He also said that Malkin is at his best when he's used more. He's a better player when he plays more.

    If his name isn't Sidney Crosby, we don't have a Center on this team that is good enough to center Malkin. We're going to try Staal and I really at this point don't see Staal long term being a productive enough 2nd line center for this team. At some point the Pens need to give up on this pipe dream about Staal building off of a fluke rookie season. He was NEVER an offensive producer in juniors. All you have to do is watch the kid and see that he lacks vision, touch, passing skills, puck handling ability, a shot of any sort to see that he really lacks most offensive producing skills.

    Ultimately we'll see, but I've always felt that Ray Shero's contruction of our Offense was **** poor. I don't think the guy can evaluate his own players and others well enough to determine which types of players would mesh well with what we have and vice versa
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    Default Re: 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    Quote Originally Posted by Evilpens View Post
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    It really doesn't matter what we like X! It's that [HIGH-LIGHT]Gino is about a comfortable @ RW as a Hooker in church![/HIGH-LIGHT]
    .... or about as comfortable as he is at the point on the PP!

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    Default Re: 'Comfortable' Evgeni Malkin becoming his own man

    Quote Originally Posted by (419)BlackNGold View Post
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    .... or about as comfortable as he is at the point on the PP!
    That would be redundant !!

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