Malkin matters

Penguins fans are confident about their team's second round matchup with the Washington Capitals. I get it. The Penguins are 9-1 all-time in playoff series against their foes from our nation's capital. 

The Penguins have beat the Caps en route to the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons. The boys of winter beating Washington in the playoffs is like a rite of spring. 

But are Pens fans a little too confident?

I think so, given the uncertainty around Evgeni Malkin's lower body injury. Penguins fans were quick to bitch about Geno not being included in the NHL's top 100 players list. They were right to do so. But if he's deserving of that distinction, isn't he instrumental in the teams efforts this postseason? Surely. 

Evgeni Malkin's second half tear is the reason that these Penguins were able to qualify for the playoffs. He's deserving of a Hart Trophy nomination. He was the most valuable player on the team this year. 

Brassard is a hell of a player and a tremendous playoff performer, but Malkin is a Conn Smythe winner. The threat of Geno's shot is invaluable on the power play. 

The Pens have won the cup three times in the Crosby/Malkin era. Having great center depth is the biggest reason why they've been able to accomplish that. No team in the league can boast what the Penguins have down the middle with Crosby/Malkin/Brassard/Sheahan, but the Capitals can come close. 

Kuznetsov/Backstrom/Eller is pretty darn formidable. I won't go so far as to say that any team with Crosby is going to lose the battle at center but without Malkin, that evens the playing field.

With him, I like the Penguins chances of beating the Capitals for the third straight year and for the 10th time in eleven tries. Without him, I've got Caps in 6.  

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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