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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Would the Penguins be Without Crosby and Malkin?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been hit hard by injuries this year. Tyler Kennedy, Maxime Talbot, Mike Zigomanis, Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Marc-Andre Fleury have all missed significant playing time this season.

Last year was no better.

Fleury, Talbot, Sidney Crosby and Gary Roberts spent a great deal of time in the press box last year. The team has been hit with some definite bad luck on the injury front.

However, the Penguins have been quite lucky in one respect: They've never had to play a game without either Crosby or Malkin in the line-up.

Last year Evgeni Malkin stepped up and led the team when Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain. He managed to carry the offensive load for the Penguins until Crosby returned.

One of the blessings of having "the two-headed monster" on the team is that if one player is injured, or covered, or off his game, the other can step up and take over. This one-two punch is a big reason for the Penguins success.

But where would the Penguins be without both Crosby AND Malkin?

At this point in the season the Penguins have scored 100 goals as a team. Crosby and Malkin have scored a total of 25. Two players have carried one quarter of the team's offense. And this doesn't include the goals that have been assisted by either Crosby or Malkin.

The last time the Penguins played a regular season game without either Crosby or Malkin in the lineup was before the lockout. Before either man was drafted. Before the "new NHL."

It was on Sunday April 4th, 2004. The Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 at Mellon Arena. The Penguins goals were scored by Matt Bradley, Milan Kraft, Lasse Pirjeta (who had two.) The only Penguin in the line-up that day who is still with the team is Brooks Orpik.

Of course, not long after that game the future of both teams would be changed forever. In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft the Capitals chose Alexander Ovechkin first overall. The Penguins had to "settle" for Evgeni Malkin.

It's tough to guess where the Penguins would be without their two superstars. This year's team is without a doubt stronger than the 2004 team - even with Crosby and Malkin taken out of the equation - so there isn't much comparison possible there.

So what would the team be like if both Crosby and Malkin went down with injuries?

Hopefully the Penguins never have to find out.

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