Since Mario Lemieux in 1992, only one player has lead the league in scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Evgeni Malkin.

Not since Wayne Gretzky's 1982 season has a player led the NHL in scoring during the regular season, and the World Championships in the same year.

That would also be Evgeni Malkin.

Yet, for some reason, Malkin has been receiving undue criticism about his allegiance to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he joined in 2007 after defecting from the Metallurg Magnitogorsk in an airport in Finland.

What's the deal, Pittsburgh?

If this is some Eastern European complex because either A) Jaromir Jagr is from the Czech Republic and he left the Penguins or B) the Russians used to be the Soviet Union, need I remind you both events are in the past and neither have any connection to Evgeni Malkin.

Jagr and Malkin aren't even the same type of personalities. I spoke to someone within the Pittsburgh media who recounts an 18 year old Jaromir Jagr walking into night clubs with a pen and tablet, trying to get as many phone numbers as possible. Meanwhile, since he first arrived in the United States, Malkin has surrounded himself with teammates and family.

Evgeni Malkin's 2012 playoff stat sheet shows he was not nearly as dominant as he was in the regular season when he racked up 109 points in 75 games. Nevertheless, his 8 points were still second on the team behind Jordan Staal. What most people forget is, the Penguins' biggest problem wasn't a lack of scoring goals. Despite playing just six games in these playoffs, the Penguins are still ranked 7th out of 16 in goals scored. With a league leading 4.33 goals per game, the Penguins should've rolled through the Philadelphia Flyers. Instead, due to bad defense and horrific penalty killing, the Penguins were sent packing in six.

Malkin then took his talent to Sweden where he racked up a tournament best 19 points (11 g, 8 a) en route to Russia's third Gold Medal in the last five years.

The reaction in Pittsburgh? Largely negative.

Rather than applaud Geno's efforts, fans have characterized Malkin's performance as a brand of betrayal; believing he took games off in the NHL playoffs in order to get to the World Championships quicker. These are the same fans that are quick to point out how critical Sidney Crosby's participation in the 2010 Olympic games was for the Canadians to win the Gold Medal. Why can't Malkin get that kind of recognition?

Regardless of what fans may speculate, the truth is that Evgeni Malkin loves Pittsburgh. It is a town similar to his own back in Russia. He risked his livelihood, friends, and family to come here and be a part of something special. So far he's contributed to one Stanley Cup and if the Penguins hope to get back within the next 10 years, they'll need Evgeni Malkin to help carry the load.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins

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