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Series Breakdown: Evgeni Malkin Dominated by Predators

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In what was supposed to be the biggest mismatch for the Penguins, Malkin has been neutralized by the Predators thus far.

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A number of Penguins have been criticized for failing to perform thus far in the final at various times, such as Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby. However, there has not been a Penguin who has failed his team as much as Evgeni Malkin.

Going into the Stanley Cup Final, the biggest factor working in the Penguins’ favor was their depth at center. With Crosby and Malkin as a one-two punch, many pundits claimed that it would be impossible for the Predators to match up with the Penguins. While Crosby has still had a solid series, Evgeni Malkin has been largely absent. Attempting to throw their biggest center available at Malkin, it has been Colton Sissons and his line of Filip Forsberg and Pontus Aberg that have been responsible for containing Malkin. It would be an understatement to say that they have succeeded thus far in the series.

Here is a game-by-game breakdown of Malkin’s performance thus far. Not once does his name cross over the center axis line into positive territory.

Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com
Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com
Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com
Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com

Evgeni Malkin has yet to put in a dominant performance all series. When he is possessing the puck more, his line is simply not doing anything with it. His line has overall had an abysmal time at generating offense against the Predators. Perhaps it’s because Colton Sissons and company have done a commendable job shutting Malkin down, but the defense pairing of P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm has been brutal for Malkin.

Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com

For each game respectively, Evgeni Malkin’s corsi-for percentages have been 35.71%, 46.15%, an appalling 21.05%, and finally 50.00% last night. Yet, as the chart above detailing game 4 shows, his line did not generate that many shots/hour with that 50.00% corsi-for. When you consider the size and talent of Malkin compared to any center the Predators have played this series, Malkin simply should be getting his chances. Additionally, head coach Mike Sullivan has done his best to put Malkin in positions to succeed. Sullivan has not been rewarded by Malkin for these decisions.

Graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com

In game 4, Evgeni Malkin never was deployed in his own zone. Instead, Mike Sullivan put Malkin in the offensive zone every chance available. The results? Malkin has three high danger scoring chances but, despite not once starting in his own zone, he gave up four high danger chances to the Predators. This tale has been consistent over the series, as Malkin has helped generate five high danger scoring chances to the nine the Predators have generated against him. Of all the chances generated with Malkin on the ice, the Predators have scored twice while the Penguins have yet to score.

Considering how he is always being deployed in the Predators’ zone, the numbers demonstrate that Malkin has not just been ineffective, but also a liability. Malkin has only managed four shots this entire series, averaging one shot per game. His corsi numbers range from mediocre to terrible, and he has been horrific in generating offense. He has been completely ineffective.

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three
Prince Filip finds it hilarious that Evgeni Malkin has completely lost his composure this series.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At times, his frustration has boiled over and spilled onto various Predators. However, the Predators have not given in to Malkin’s antics. Filip Forsberg has merely been laughing at Malkin whenever Malkin comes after him, smiling and knowing that Malkin is wrapped right around his finger. In four games, Malkin has already accumulated 13 penalty minutes. It’s not only his ability to be effective on the ice that is absent but it’s also his composure that has gone missing.

The Predators have been focused on shutting down Malkin and, after four games, he has yet to come up with a response.