By Darren Eliot
December 08, 2008

Dynamic duos are a rarity to be treasured in the game of hockey. Gretzky to Kurri in Edmonton. Trottier to Bossy on Long Island. Lemieux to Jagr in Pittsburgh. Those tandems shared the centerman-to-winger dynamic that you usually associate with scoring combinations.

What makes the Sidney Crosby - Evgeni Malkin combo so intriguing is that both are centermen. Yet, they find themselves together atop the NHL scoring race due to the flexibility of their respective games. It is a luxury afforded coach Michel Therrien and a bonus he cashes routinely.

Need an offensive surge? Put Malkin and Crosby together for an even strength shift. Trailing late in a game? Double up by double-shifting the two stars together.

Malkin seems at ease wherever he plays, either at his natural center ice position, shifting to the wing, or manning the point as he has done this season with injuries to point men Ryan Whitney and, particularly, Sergei Gonchar. Malkin is growing as the powerplay quarterback in Gonchar's absence. It is yet another sign of his development that was accelerated last year when Crosby went out of the lineup with an ankle injury.

When I asked Crosby if he was surprised by Malkin's calm demeanor while handling the puck at the blueline, he chuckled, noting that, "Gino is calm in everything he does. There could be ten guys out there and he wouldn't rush."

Crosby did feel that Malkin had gotten more comfortable in "seeing the ice and making plays" from the point. He did agree that Malkin's shot -- "the ability to score from 45 feet out" helped keep defenses honest.

Crosby would know. Like most star forwards, he himself sees time on the point on the power play and admitted, "It's not an easy job. I'm more comfortable down low, or working from the top on the other side."

Certainly, the twin threat on the power play has a part in their 1-2 scoring position in the league race, as each is likely to pick up points simultaneously when the Penguins score a power play goal.

Still, the feat of finishing 1-2 has happened only five times in the last quarter century. It doesn't happen as often as you might think, even though star players typically popular the power play at the same time. No, this pairing is unique.

Crosby and Malkin are young, talented and play a lot in all situations. Malkin is coming off a game on Saturday against Ottawa in which he garnered both a powerplay assist and scored a short-handed goal. For Therrien, then, it's just a matter of having his two phenoms on the ice as much as possible, as evidenced by their nearly 23 minutes of ice-time per game.

And why not? The Colorado Avalanche employed Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg in much the same manner in winning two Stanley Cups. Both centered different lines at even strength, but similarly found themselves on the ice together when the offense needed a jolt, when a deficit needed erasing and when the Avs enjoyed a man-up situation.

As with Malkin and Crosby, it was just a matter of doubling the odds of success.

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