Having covered Evgeni Malkin his entire NHL career, I’ve always thought there is something more there. In terms of personality. Accessibility. Accountability. Leadership.
I think Geno would put himself in the public spotlight more (and seize an ownership role in the clubhouse more) if he had a better command of English. I think he’d want to do so if he grasped the linguistic nuances better. Frankly right now, I often think four minute post game interviews exhaust him more than 20 minutes of ice time in a game.
But the language barrier is a big deal.
Go ahead. Move to Russia and see how quickly you grasp it as a second language.
And maybe the fallout from what he said Monday is proof positive as to why Malkin doesn’t speak publicly more than he does.
“I believe in my team. I believe in myself. And we’ll come back to Pittsburgh for sure.”
Call him Evgeni Namath.
In print? Yeah. I guess it reads like Geno is arrogantly guaranteeing a Game 6 Pittsburgh win in Tampa over the Lightning and a return trip to CONSOL Energy Center for a decisive Eastern Conference Final Game 7 ala Broadway Joe or Mark Messier.
And that’s the way it’s being portrayed by some.
I suppose that’s the way #71 could’ve wanted it to be interpreted. Maybe it was an intentional attempt to puff out his chest. Maybe the goal was to create an aura of moxy around a team that is dealing with the pall of back to back losses for the first time since January.
In reality, it was likely something less than that. Given the pressure that this team has been under since it last won the Stanley Cup in ‘09, my guess is Malkin wouldn’t have created more by doing such a thing.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper continues to do a really crummy job of making us in Pittsburgh hate him. Even he let Malkin off the hook when it came to his qazi-translatable bravado in this quote to assembled media.
“What’s he supposed to say in that situation? ‘We’re done. We’re just going down as a formality.’ Of course they’re going to say they’re going to win, and they should. They’re a good team, a good confident group, but we feel the same way.”
What a jerk! What’s with the this measured nice guy crap, Jon?! Have you not a single Torts bone in you, man!? Not a chapter from the Boudreau book on snobbery? The Laviolette book of detestability? The Babcock novel on elitism?
So the Lightning didn’t bite the hook. At least publicly.
It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Penguins did though. Even if the entire Pittsburgh lockerroom gets that Malkin’s perceived guarantee was just his attempt at portraying confidence and leadership, perhaps the others guys in black and gold should buy into the notion that Malkin meant more than that. That they need to back up his words. That they need to heed his promise.
Frankly, the threat of elimination for a team that has been bounced far too early in recent years should be enough to motivate it collectively as is. But if carrying the tongue of a teammate speaking in his second tongue adds a little something extra, well all the better.
So intent or not, Malkin’s words could carry the same weight.