Evgeni Malkin must be better if the Pittsburgh Penguins want to be better.
The veteran center said as much after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
“I need to look at myself in the mirror and I need [more] fight in my body, I need [more] fight in myself, and help the team to win,” Malkin said. “I understand that. I’m not happy with my game right now. It’s just, come to the rink every day, work and fight every shift. It’s hard to play right now. Without fans it’s a little bit different. But we’re all in the same situation right now. I include myself too.
“It’s tough to say many good things about my game right now, but I hope it’s coming and I believe in myself.”
The Penguins center has struggled to begin this season, with three points (one goal, two assists) and a minus-3 rating in eight games.
He’s looked lost at times, lacking his usual confidence on the ice and his skating has not been quite as powerful.
Malkin scored 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) with 171 shots on goal in 55 games last season.
He has 15 shots on goal this season; 141 NHL players have more.
A slow start is unusual for Malkin. Last season he scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in his first eight games. He’s averaged nine points in his first eight games of each season since coming to the NHL in 2006-07. He scored an NHL career-best 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in his first eight games in 2018-19.
The Penguins are fourth in the MassMutual East Division, but it’s Malkin’s struggles that have been glaring.
“We have a great team,” Malkin said. “We have great players and it’s a great organization. It’s a game right now where we need to fight every shift. We played against a good team tonight. We see in Boston … they were faster, they were hungrier, they won every battle in the corner. I don’t know. We need to just look in mirror and fight every shift. It’s not a pretty game right now. … We need to try to play simple and we need to just work, work, work.”
Malkin said he had a difficult time working out during the offseason at home in Russia because many gyms were closed because of the coronavirus. He was limited to skating and body-weight work. He did not want to make any excuses for his play but acknowledged that he wasn’t able to do his usual preparation for a season.
“I’m doing my best,” Malkin said. “I’m skating every day. I try to do a little bit of a workout after, just with my body [weight], squats, pushups. I feel OK. My legs, my body feels fine.
“I just need to be a little bit hungrier, win every battle in the corner, win face-offs. Just help the team. I understand I’m not playing great right now. But the season has just started. It’s a long season.”
Pittsburgh plays the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV), and Malkin expects better things from himself and the Penguins.
“We talked a lot in the locker room,” Malkin said. “We’re all positive. We have great players. We try to support each other. But the only message [is] you need to play right. If your teammates see you play, [if] you do a great job on the ice, everything is right, I think they just follow you. It’s an amazing message, just play a good game.”