The Penguins have injuries.
A lot of injuries.
Paul Martin, Sidney Crosby, and James Neal are all out for at least a week while Evgeni Malkin is listed as "day to day".
Crosby will be back by the start of the playoffs, Neal could be back at any time, and Martin isn't due back until the second round of the playoffs.
Malkin is listed as "day to day".
It truly bears repeating because he is most likely the first player back and he's also the player everyone will turn to as the Penguins head into the playoffs before Crosby returns.
Malkin has single-handedly conquered the league, and he's also carried this team to a Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe in the playoffs.
There's no doubt Evgeni Malkin has the ability to carry this team without Sidney Crosby. They have the talent to make a deep playoff run and Crosby puts them over the top by a wide margin. But talent and history doesn't automatically translate into on-ice performance for "Geno". Truth be told, Malkin's on-ice performances this year have been inconsistent.
Why? I have no idea. He's been dealing with a few injuries including a concussion and shoulder that is still nagging him. I don't know Malkin personally, so I can't comment on his attitude or interest, only that his offseason conditioning has been put on display for the world to see. Based on those videos, he seems like he cares.
Also, there could be a fatigue factor. Malkin played 75 games last season, the most since the 2008-2009 season. He also played six playoff games, ten games in the World Championships, and 37 games in Russia before flying across the world to play 28 games with the Penguins this season. His explosiveness seems to be lacking at times and, again, it doesn't look like it's from a lack of effort.
The bottom line is, if the Penguins need Malkin to carry them through the first round of the playoffs while Crosby gets back to the level prior to injury, he might not meet those expectations. Fortunately, the team assembled around him is extremely talented so it may never reach that point.
But if it does, and the Penguins end up playing against a New York Rangers team that has found its identity, it could create a very interesting a stressful first round series for the third year in a row.