There hasn't been a fleeting moment since the calendar flipped that Evgeni Malkin hasn't been the NHL's premier player. His totals for 2018: 24 goals, 25 assists in 30 games.
And it's no coincidence that he and his Penguins took off with the sweetest of symmetry.
"We were fast," Jamie Oleksiak would tell me late Sunday night, his own speedy skates still laced up. "I mean, it's a fast team we've got there. And we really skated."
That's it. Begin story, end story.
It's a gorgeous game, hockey, but it isn't all that complex at the core. As Herb Brooks used to admonish his boys from behind the bench, "The legs feed the wolf!" And when anyone would swing around to ask what that meant, he'd explain that any wolf that couldn't keep up with its prey was going to wind up an awfully hungry wolf.
[caption id="attachment_583421" align="aligncenter" width="440"]TAP ABOVE FOR BOXSCORE, STANDINGS, VIDEO[/caption]
In that context, then, consider the Penguins' 3-1 throttling of the Stars at PPG Paints Arena as an excellent Exhibit A. Because they faced off with an opponent that most would rate as a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, and they forechecked and backchecked with equal fury, they picked up assignments without possession, they performed at a superhuman level on the power play and ... man, Oleksiak worded it just right: They really skated.
I asked Mike Sullivan about all that skating, and his response might have represented his most glowing praise yet for the 2017-18 edition of his team.