Rise of Malkin
The current list of Conn Smythe trophy candidates should read like this:
1a- Johan Franzen, Detroit
1b- Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
End of list.
The Russian import has assumed the "go to guy" position with the Pittsburgh Penguins this post-season and I'm sure Sidney Crosby has no problem with that. Whether it's a big hit, leading the rush through the neutral zone, or a blistering shot, Malkin is taking ownership of this team. Now teams might focus a little bit more on the big Russian, possibly giving Sid some more room on the ice to work his magic. Don't forget about Marian Hossa.
One thing I love about Geno is his love for revenge. Whenever he's been battered or knocked around, he relishes coming back and scoring a goal. Take for example his second goal, the short-handed tally that deflated the Flyers early in the second period. He comes in on a semi-breakaway, gets off a bad shot, then is drilled by Mike Richards (who seemed to be the only Flyer playing at all tonight). What does Malkin do in response? As he's skating back from shaking off the hit, he accepts a great Sergei Gonchar pass at the Philadelphoa blueline and rockets a 15-foot slap shot past Martin Biron. The look on Geno's face after he scored was priceless. It was a big "That's what I can do" grin.
What else did I think of during Game One?
-Where was all the physicality from the Flyers? I expected much more from them. Did they tone it down on purpose so to not try and rack up the penalty minutes?
-Mike Richards is a gamer. I'd take him on my team any day.
-Martin Biron should stay in his net and not try to handle anymore pucks behind the net.
-I'm pretty sure that the refs didn't call that 3rd period high stick to the face of Marian Hossa because the league wants the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final.
-One thing I've noticed about Marc-Andre Fleury this post-season is that whenever he's been a bit shaky, he eventually rebounds and plays solid the rest of the game. That was the case tonight through the second and third periods. He didn't allow juicy rebounds and was able to control the puck well. MAF also got some help from the crossbar in the third period, but then again, you need some breaks in order to win in the playoffs.
-Game Two will be huge for the Pens. The games in Philadelphia will be as tough as any that Pittsburgh has faced in the playoffs, so it'll be important to go there up 2-0. The later you get in the playoffs, the louder each and every building becomes and the more raucous the fans get.
-Will this be the series people jump off the Martin Biron bandwagon? He came in playing well, but the Penguins offense might expose him.
-Why did the referee initially wave off the first Flyers goal? On the replay it was obvious that the puck crossed the line into the back of the net.
-It sucks that Kimmo Timonen finds out the day before the series that he'll probably be out the rest of the season. How deflating is it playing hard all season, helping to lead your team to be in a position to be four wins away from a chance at a title, and a blocked shot leads to a blood clot and you're done.
-How will the Flyers stop the Penguins offensive arsenal?
Sunday 7:30 ET can't come soon enough.
Let's Go Pens!