This week’s Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup features two of the best goal scorers in the league; Claude Giroux and Evgeni Malkin. Two years ago, these players were first and third in league scoring, with Malkin putting up 50 goals and 109 points (the only player to put up 100 points that year) while Giroux had 28 goals and 93 points, ranking second in assists with 65, second only to Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin who had 67. During last year’s shortened season, we saw more of the same from the two stars of Pennsylvania, with Giroux scoring at a point-a-game pace (48 points in all 48 games) and Malkin putting up 31 points in the 33 games he played. This year, however, is a much different story. We are nearly at the quarter-way mark of the season, and already Malkin and Giroux have a whopping combined total of four goals in the 34 games played between them.
Only one of these goals belong to Giroux, as he went scoreless through the first 15 games of the season. Through those 15 games, Giroux had thrown 35 pucks towards the net, posting a horrendous shooting percentage of 2.6%. His point totals aren’t terrible, but with 10 points in 17 games, the Flyers captain leaves fans wanting more out of the Hearst, Ontario native, who is easily capable of scoring 30 goals and 80 points each year. Another fan base who needs more out of Giroux is Team Canada’s, who will be needing all they can get out of him in Sochi, especially now that Steven Stamkos is dealing with a broken tibia and will almost certainly be missing the Olympics. Giroux’s offensive woes are the last thing Philadelphia needs right now, as the broad-street bullies are tied with Columbus for 13th in the Eastern Conference and for 26th in the league. Giroux’s teammates aren’t picking up the offensive slack he’s left for them, as they are being outscored 31-44, good for 24th in the league.
The man they call ‘Geno’ has 3 goals and 15 points through his teams first 17 games, but he hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games, with his last tally coming on October 17th when he scored on the empty net at the end of a Penguins 4-1 victory over the Flyers. To be fair, he did score a nifty shootout goal that was a game winner against the Vancouver Canucks, but shootout goals don’t count towards your stats, and even if they did, this puck crossed the goal line 9 games ago, which would only shave one game off of his drought. Malkin is still working hard and has 46 shots on goal thus far. It’s only a matter of time before he gets his feet back under him and starts lighting the lamp again.
While both players have struggled this season, what matters more is how it has affected their teams. For Giroux, the pressure is on as his Flyers have had a terrible 6-10-1 start to the year and find themselves near the bottom of their division, their conference, and the entire league. For Malkin, his team is 9th in the league and 4th in the Eastern Conference, as well as being 1st in a struggling Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have studs like Kris Letang, James Neal, and obviously Sidney Crosby who can compensate for the 6’3 Russian, so the Penguins can afford Malkin’s struggles. The Flyers, however, have proven that they can’t win without Giroux at his best, thus making his struggles far more significant than Malkin’s.