Malkin at 1,000: The NHL’s quiet superstar has done it his way
It’s been a long, strange journey for Evgeni Malkin to 1,000 games. He began hiding out in Finland in 2006, after making the difficult and emotional decision to leave the Magnitogorsk team of his youth behind and pursue his dreams of playing in the NHL. Now entering his 17th NHL season, Malkin is slated tonight in Chicago to be the 370th race skater to appear at the magical mark of 1,000 games played.
Heading into his 1,000th game tonight, as Evgeni Malkin reflects on all the moments that have passed throughout his career, his first day in the NHL stands out more than anything, even more than the three Stanley cups. https://t.co/ZChBWtEq08
– Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 20, 2022
It was a journey full of ups and downs, and not an easy one. A stranger in a strange land, Malkin had to endure an injury during the preseason and some doubts about whether he belonged or would make it to the NHL.
“I think it’s maybe the hardest time of my life,” Malkin said. “Since I come to the United States, everything is new: the game, the practice. I try to work hard every day, and the first exhibition game against Philly I got a bad injury.”
“I think a couple of things, like bad things, in my head. Like maybe I should go back to Russia,” Malkin said. “Because it’s not my game, it’s a hard game, it’s just an exhibition game and it’s already an injury. I called my parents, friends and said maybe I’m not ready to play here, you know? Sometimes I think about it, maybe I’m not strong enough.”
Fortunately, Malkin quickly curled up, recovered, and scored against Martin Brodeur in his first game. From there he was off to the races, and the rest of the league has been in awe of his skills and personality ever since.
“I think with Geno, obviously, he has all the skills,” Crosby said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s got the size, he can skate, obviously his hands are incredible. But I think it’s just his ability to take over a game, and that’s probably more mental than physical. I mean, it’s a mindset. He’s got that passion, that fire, and he’s unstoppable when he gets in that mode. It’s got to be tough for other teams to play against him.”
Here’s a cool tweet: Mentally update your files to 1,165 points after Geno’s assist on Jason Zucker’s game-winning goal last night. Malkin ranks 17th in league history for players in points through their first 1,000 NHL games. The company he keeps on this list is a who’s who of the greatest offensive players of all time.
Last night, Evgeni Malkin tied for 17th most points in first 1,000 games played. Incredibly productive player. I still can’t believe it wasn’t in the top 100 of all time a few years ago. He and Crosby are only active players on the roster now, McDavid could finish third. @DailyFaceoff pic.twitter.com/03yqysjDL3
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) November 18, 2022
For a player who flies so much under the radar, a stat like this is a necessary reminder of how much greatness Malkin has been showing throughout his career. He was the first Russian to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and is just 14 points behind Sergei Fedorov to take over second place in the NHL scoring career by a Russian player. Malkin will eventually join Crosby as the only players to dress for 1,000 games, all in a Penguin uniform (until Kris Letang could join the group later).
So far in his career and reaching a milestone, a content that sounded Malkin reflected his feelings at this time.
“It’s my second city, for sure. This city, this team and the fans, they’re in my heart forever,” Malkin said. “There’s no question about it. I know I have a couple of serious injuries, but I’ve met a lot of nice people here, a lot of new friends. It’s an amazing city for sports, not just hockey, like baseball and football too. I’m enjoying being here for the next four years, just being on a team forever, you know?
“I hope we get a chance to play the final again. I play with Sid and Tanger I hope all my life. Happy to be here again. Like, it’s not a question, for sure. There’s been more good things (than bad things ), for sure. Good memories, and I enjoy being here every day.”
Over these past 17 seasons, the Penguins have had reason to enjoy it, too.
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