Shoot, puck in net, score. Guess who? If you guessed Evgeni Malkin, you're spot on. Our favorite Russian is off to quite a start. Even though it's only preseason, there's definitely a buzz coming from Consol Energy Center courtesy of number 71. And if exhibition games are any indication of how the Penguins are going to do this year, fans should be excited, especially since the Penguins are a perfect five for five in preseason play, including a shoot-out win against the LA Kings.
Evgeni Malkin has been a spectacle of beauty, perhaps reminding us of another Penguins center whose return date is still unknown. He picked up a goal, an assist and had a plus two rating against Detroit last week. In addition, he dazzled hundreds of children during the Pens "Free Game for Kids," on Saturday, by sliding the puck between his legs to Pascal Dupuis who took it top shelf on Minnesota. As evidenced by this play, Geno seems to be dishing it off more this year, rather than unsuccessfully forcing it into the zone. This is great news for the Penguins, as it will allow them to spend more time in the offensive zone, putting more points on the board because they won't always be turning it over at the blue line. Tuesday night, he tacked on a shootout goal. Maybe some good home-cooked meals from Mama Malkin in the offseason put Geno on the track for success. Whatever the case may be, we can only hope that he stays healthy this year. Knee injuries can be nagging, as we've seen with him in the past, even with intense rehab. "I'm stronger every game. Every game I feel better," Malkin said. "My knee is pretty strong now. I hope my knee keeps feeling better." You heard it from the man himself: he keeps feeling better. Yet we can only hope that he avoids another extended injury.
Another bright spot in the preseason is the Penguins power play- yes that thing that always seems to be a problem. On Saturday versus Minnesota alone, the Pens scored four power play goals! In the first three exhibition games, they went 5 for 12, which isn't too shabby considering that dreadful 1 for 31 stat from last year's postseason. The Pens aren't messing around on the man advantage. They're just trying to put the puck on net, a fundamental key to scoring on the power play. Coach Bylsma has said they are really stressing the "shooter's mentality."
A surprise in exhibition play is new addition, Joe Morrow, an 18-year-old defenseman. He contributed a strike from the point for the Pens first power play goal against Minnesota. I've really liked what I've seen from this kid so far. The only problem is that the Pens are stacked right now on defense even with Brooks Orpik out (hernia), but they may consider giving Morrow a 10-game try-out. Regardless, just having him in the farm system to learn and grow could benefit the Penguins in the upcoming years. Keep an eye out for him in the future!
NHL.com writers, Dan Rosen and E.J. Hradek both picked the Pens to win the Eastern Conference this year. Given exhibition play, I wouldn't argue with them.