Evgeni Malkin has gone 14 games without scoring a goal heading into Wednesday’s matchup between the Capitals and Penguins at Verizon Center. But that drought doesn’t make him any less dangerous to the Capitals, Coach Adam Oates said.
“The thing to make of it is ignore it,” Oates said following the morning skate. “He gets two helpers every night, he gets five chances every night, he hit a couple posts, but he’s also passed on some golden opportunities that created goals. Trust me, we’re not thinking about him in terms of scoring or not scoring. We’re worried about the player.”
That’s probably a wise approach. He may only have three goals in 21 games this season, but Malkin is ranked fourth in the league with 17 helpers. You only need to look to Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks Monday night to see the latest example, when Malkin carried the puck from behind the goal line up and around the offensive zone and down to the opposite faceoff circle on the right side before dishing a pass in front for call-up Brian Gibbons.
Malkin’s scoring slump isn’t unlike the one Alex Ovechkin went through last season when he was adjusting to playing right wing. There were chances and he was recording assists, but the goals just weren’t there, and Ovechkin understands how discouraging that can be.
“I watch couple [recent] games, Pittsburgh games, and he was flying out there. He control the puck well, he make good decisions with the puck. Of course he wants to score goal,” Ovechkin said. “What I did, just working hard. Of course it’s frustrating, of course you start thinking and thinking more and more about it, but you just have to relax and forget about it.”
Ovechkin was later asked how he knew when he had found his rhythm again, and he sounded a lot like his coach in saying that it’s not always about when the puck starts finding the back of the net again.
“I always was here, I didn’t go to Miami or Jamaica,” Ovechkin quipped. “When you score goals, when you make assists, when your name not on the score list, of course everybody thinks you’re back. But sometimes you don’t have great game, but you get a point and everybody thinks you play well. Sometimes you have to see in different positions — where you didn’t score goals but you make hard work, make different play for your teammates. It’s more than goals.”