NHL takeaways: Evgeni Malkin thriving outside of spotlight
Columbus keeps winning; sophomores succeeding in Central Division
Playing with Sidney Crosby his entire career, Evgeni Malkin's greatness is often forgotten.
The 30-year-old Russian is reminding the hockey world again this season even as Crosby continues his rule over the sport. Malkin has actually overtaken his Pittsburgh Penguins counterpart in the NHL scoring race, tied for top spot with Edmonton Oilers prodigy Connor McDavid at 43 points apiece.
Malkin, who scored the overtime winner in the Penguins' New Year's Eve victory over Montreal, is on pace for his most prolific offensive season since the 2011-12 campaign when he won the Art Ross trophy with 109 points, later capturing his first and only Hart trophy as league MVP.
Though he's not as celebrated as Crosby, Malkin's career numbers are right there among the very best despite the fact that he's not played 70 games in a season since that MVP campaign.
With that OT goal, Evgeni Malkin now leads the NHL in points. Sidney Crosby is one point behind. 2016 has been kind to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pens?src=hash">#Pens</a> fans. <a href="https://t.co/53XOFJNvcp">pic.twitter.com/53XOFJNvcp</a>—@penguins
Malkin's 803 points trail only Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Joe Thornton since he entered the NHL in 2006, while he sits sixth in assists (492), and seventh in goals (311) over that span. On a per-game basis Malkin ranks behind only Crosby in points, fourth in assists and fifth in goals.
Malkin, a two-time Stanley Cup-winner and the 2009 Conn Smythe trophy victor as playoff MVP, ranks third in total post-season goals overt that same span (behind Crosby and Patrick Kane), and second in both assists and points, trailing only Crosby.
Stack Malkin up against the all-timers and he's right there too, currently 11th in NHL history (minimum 500 games) with 1.18 points per-game, trailing only Crosby among active players.
There are benefits, certainly, of playing behind Crosby in the Penguins No. 2 centre hole, primarily a likelier matchup against an opponent's second-best defensive pairing and forward line. He's also benefited this year by starting a heavy amount of shifts in the offensive zone (78 per cent), while playing alongside fellow top-10 overall scorer Phil Kessel.
None of that downplays Malkin's incredible season, nor a career that will surely end with a plaque in the hall of fame..
Sophomore success for Ehlers, Fabbri
Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele have attracted most of the Winnipeg spotlight, but Nikolaj Ehlers is having a pretty special sophomore season for the struggling Jets. Still just 20, Ehlers is producing at nearly a point per-game pace, currently with 31 points in 39 games while leading his team in five-on-five production on a per-minute basis.
The ninth overall pick of the 2015 draft has played much of year with Laine and Scheifele and underlying numbers suggest both are far better off with him than without him. Ehlers, a speedy, shifty and creative winger ranks eighth in the NHL with 25 even-strength points and will soon surpass the 38 points he managed as a rookie last season.
Quietly emerging after a slow start to his second NHL season is St. Louis Blues 20-year-old Robby Fabbri. The Mississauga, Ont., native had six goals and 13 points in 14 December games after posting only 10 points in October and November. Fabbri registered his first career hat trick last week in a win over Philadelphia.
Behind the streaks
Columbus extended their shocking win streak to 15 games over the weekend, ending Minnesota's equally surprising 12-game run.
The NHL's current leader in even-strength points? Not Crosby or Malkin or even McDavid, but Blue Jackets' 24-year-old winger Brandon Saad, who has 31 such points in 35 games this season.
Driving the Wild during their franchise record stretch was exceptional goaltending (.938 save percentage), a superb penalty kill (92 per cent) and a whole lot of shooting luck (46 goals on 13.4 per cent shooting). The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are benefiting from a terrific power play (30 per cent), scorching offence on equally hot shooting (3.67 goals per-game at 12 per cent), and like Minnesota, terrific goaltending (.943 save percentage), most of it from Vezina trophy candidate Sergei Bobrovsky.