Malkin and Neal: Together Again
Welcome back James Neal!
While he returned to the ice earlier in the week against the St. Louis Blues, last night against the Nashville Predators was when he really returned to form.
Looking every bit the sharpshooter we’ve come to know and love, Neal once again seemed at ease skating with Evgeni Malkin.
Talent helps make talent better. Neal would not be as good of a player without Malkin, and Malkin has slumped without Neal in the lineup.
It’s easy to look at Geno and just expect him to put up goals like it’s no big thing. The problem is that without Neal on his wing drawing defensive attention, Malkin has no room to operate. The same goes for Neal, as the space Malkin provides opens up all kinds of options. Jussi Jokinen is having a nice season, but he will never monopolize a defender’s attention like Malkin does for Neal, or vice-versa. This is why they need each other to reach their full potential.
While Malkin didn’t record a goal, his 2 assists helped him get the game’s No. 3 star. Neal had 2 points himself and was the No. 1 star.
Now that the Malkin / Neal tandem has returned, it creates match-up problems for the other team. The 2nd line is once again a force to be reckoned with and decisions must be made as to whether a team plays their top d-men against the Crosby line or the Malkin line.
It creates a ripple effect throughout the entire team, where now the 3rd and 4th lines are playing more minutes against 3rd defensive parings. This will aid secondary scoring.
All it takes for this to happen is for teammates who are successful together to finally get back to being successful together. Now that Neal has seemingly returned to form from his injury, let’s see if it opens things up for the rest of the roster.
The 4 goals last night were nice, but let’s see if the offense is truly back.
Maybe everything is coming back together again.