I can't count how many times I hear it during the playoffs, but the phrase "Your best Players have to be your best players" always seems to be true. Along with the Pens 2-0 hole, the team has to wonder if Evgeni Malkin will play like the elite player he is for the remainder of the playoffs. We have seen this disappearing act before, remember this time last season when Penguin Nation had nothing good to say about it's Russian superstar. Right on cue, it's happening again, like a little case of deja-vu.
Does Malkin need to step it up? Of course. That's the obvious. The team has other glaring weaknesses at the moment, so don't pile up on Geno just yet. He has 11 points in 8 playoff games so far, but my criticism of Malkin comes at the other end of the ice. He is a minus 3 right now and has not put forth the effort at the defensive end. Three times this series alone, he has been caught napping while his man went by him and crashed the net. All three instances resulted in goals. When Malkin dedicates himself at both ends of the ice, he is an unstoppable freight train. When he doesn't, he often just looks like a by standard just waiting for a breakout. This isn't hammering Malkin as much as it is the entire team. Fluery can't do it by himself. Things have to tighten up in their own end.
Another man who has come under a lot of heat after last night's game has been Sergei Gonchar. Something was wrong with him the last two games. He seemed to have no legs at all. I don't know if the heavy workload has caught up to him, but he is another that needs to up his game. Especially since Kris Letang, who I felt skated very well last night, looks to be lost for the series.
The powerplay scored twice last night, but in the end it was that same powerplay that cost them. With the score tied at 2, the Pens had a golden opportunity to take the lead, but a 2 minute powerplay in which they couldn't even maintain the offensive zone, much less get shots on goal changed the momentum. Malkin's penalty didn't help matter out either.
With everything to complain about, the Pens have a chance to take care of business at home and get right back in the series. They can start by crashing the net at every opportunity. Having the last change will help on Ovechkin as well. I have faith that they will. For that to happen though, Evgeni Malkin needs to become that freight train again and the Pens will be fine.