Evgeni Malkin will miss the NHL All-Star Game on Friday with a lower-body injury. He also missed last year’s All-Star game with a last-second injury.
Does Malkin simply not want to play in All-Star Games?
“I’m not going to tell you I didn’t think about that when I saw that announcement (Wednesday), but he got bumped the other night,” NHL Network and NESN analyst Billy Jaffe said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I don’t know. He plays his butt off. He really plays his ass off. He works hard. He’s been a monster this year. (The) Penguins are a scary-good team again this season. I don’t know. L.A. (is) fun. I would think he’d want to be there, but he’s not playing (Thursday) night against the Bruins. Maybe he needed a little more of a holiday than just a cross-continent flight from Pitt to L.A. I’d like to think no, but who am I say where he’s at? But I did get an inner chuckle when I saw that (report) myself.”
Malkin and Sidney Crosby have a team-leading 54 points for Pittsburgh (30-12-5). Malkin has a team-high 32 assists, while Crosby has a team-high 28 goals. Still, the Penguins trail Washington (32-10-6) in the standings.
“There’s two teams – there’s Pitt and there’s Washington – that are the two best teams that I’ve seen this year,” Jaffe said. “Washington is playing with the same kind of purpose, the same kind of drive, same kind of intensity that you would expect from a team that wants to win it all. But they’re doing it differently than last year. It’s a much more mature way of winning. Earlier in the season, some people gave it to them because they were playing kind of sloppy, they were a little loose and Ovechkin wasn’t dominating. I don’t think that’s the important thing. I think they’re looking and saying, ‘We’ll try things in November and December so long as we win come April, May and June when the playoffs begin.’ Ovechkin has been back going again, T.J. Oshie has been picking it up, their D is very good, Braden Holtby is again in the top five in the NHL statistically for all goaltenders. So Barry Trotz has got them rolling.”
Jaffe believes that the Capitals are playing with a different mindset this season.
“I thought last year at times, all their wins were almost like playoff-type wins,” he said. “They were celebrating and there was great energy. You can’t keep that up all season long. You got to build it up with a crescendo from the regular season to the playoffs. That’s when it matters most. That’s what I think they’re doing this year.”