Over the span of an 82-game season, there is no doubt that Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel may look like the best forward duo the Pittsburgh Penguins have to offer.
Despite the first line duo, it’s the Penguins second set of forwards that are making the most noise lately.
Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker came into the 2022-23 season fully healthy and formed a new chemistry that could take the team to new levels.
They’re a pair of players that came into the new year fully healthy with a lot to prove and so far, they’ve exceeded expectations.
Malkin signed a four-year contract that many found to be undeserving and that put a chip on his shoulder.
Looking to prove the doubters wrong, Malkin has looked like one of the most motivated and hungry players on the Penguins through 14 games.
Currently over a point-per-game pace, Malkin has scored six goals and nine assists for 15 points.
A motivated Malkin is a dangerous Malkin and pairing him with Zucker has flourished the Penguins second line.
Zucker, also coming into the season fully healthy after needed a special stool to sit on the bench during last season’s playoffs, is also looking to prove critics wrong.
After a pair of disappointing and injury riddled seasons, Zucker is playing in arguably the most important season of his career.
Turning 31 in January, Zucker is in the final year of a contract that earns him $5.5 million annually.
35 points (17G-18A) in 79 games over the last two years is far from enough to say his cap hit is worth it; but 10 (4G-6A) through 12 is much more on par.
Maybe it’s the contract year or the full health, but it’s also fair to say Zucker’s partnership with Malkin has brought out the best in both players.
They continuously contribute on each others goals and have looked better than Crosby and Guetnzel as a duo in the past couple of games.
Not to say Crosby and Guentzel should be separated, but Malkin and Zucker have become a severe threat on the second line.
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