Friday, October 27, 2006

Crosby: Too young to Drink, but not too young to win it all

Too young to buy beer? Oh, right, you Americans and your puritanical drinking laws *Rolleyes*

From the Beaver County Times:

"Malkin, Crosby can't buy beer, but could make playoffs "

Evgeni Malkin has needed only four games to show the NHL he might be a very special player. He proved it to star goaltender Martin Brodeur with one shot.

Malkin, moved up to Pittsburgh's top line with Sidney Crosby for the first time, secured the young Penguins' 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night with exactly the kind of did-you-see-that-goal that made him a No. 2 draft pick in 2004.

Taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby, Malkin split two defenders and did a spin move near the net to beat Brodeur on a backhander to restore Pittsburgh's two-goal lead midway through the third period. Malkin, the Russian Olympic star who sneaked away from his pro team there to play in the NHL this season, has a goal in each of his first four NHL games. He is the first player to do so since Steven King of the Rangers in 1992.

"I came right from the bench and I had a lot of energy," the 20-year-old Malkin said, speaking through interpreter George Birman. "A lot of guys on their team were wanting to change. He made a nice pass, saw me there and it was just me and the defender."

Brodeur's take on Malkin's goal?

"Pretty amazing," the Devils' longtime star said. "It was a great pass, but there's not too many guys who can control that and after that, have the presence to outmuscle a guy and shift when a guy is trying to take your head off. I thought I had it the whole way, he had nowhere to go, and he just stopped and went right around me with his reach."

Right now, a player must do something remarkable merely to get noticed on the Penguins. The NHL's worst franchise the last four seasons is flashing signs it could be much better - and soon.

Jordan Staal, the No. 2 pick in the June draft who turned 18 only last month, has three goals in two games and four in eight games. One game after being the youngest player in NHL history to score twice short-handed, he got his first career goal at even strength on a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Nils Ekman, who also scored, and Mark Recchi.

Oh, yeah, and those guys named Crosby and Fleury? Not to get overlooked, Crosby had a goal and an assist, giving him 34 points in his last 18 games dating to the end of last season. And former No. 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 21, lowered his goals-against average to 2.50 by making 22 saves.

The Penguins' 5-3 start might seem modest, but it's a big improvement from their nine-game losing streak to start last season when they were a much older team. Now, only San Jose had a younger roster to start the season.

Already, NHL general managers and coaches are scrambling to think of when one team added so many potential young impact players in so little time.

"No, I don't think the talent here surprises you at all," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "How many first-round picks, how many first overall picks do they have here? When you finish last you get those picks and they've been fortunate to have guys like Crosby, Malkin. When you're picking early, you're going to pick the best every year."

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