For some reason, such guarantees are still newsworthy in the hockey world because players are generally supposed to be all ho-hum about their chances.
Tampa, of course, holds a 3-2 series lead and could lock it all down on Tuesday night at the Amalie Arena. But Malkin doesn’t see it that way, nor should he.
“I believe in my team, I believe in myself,” he said. “We’re coming back to Pittsburgh for sure.”
This assertive attitude had many sports writers scrambling to make Mark Messier comparisons. He famously promised a Game Six victory against the New Jersey Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final and his Rangers actually did win the series before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
Naturally, Pittsburgh fans will like similar history to be made on the back of Malkin’s remark.
But for the rest of us, it’s business as usual.
“What’s he supposed to say in that situation?” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Of course they’re going to say they’re going to win, and they should. They’re a good team, a good, confident group, but we feel the same way. But, look, you’ve got to win four, and we’re a little closer to four than they are, but you’ve still got to get four, and that’s all our group is thinking about, is let’s just get that fourth one.”
Patric Hornqvist, incidentally, also “promised” victory in Game Six. After the Penguins dropped Game Five by a 4-3 final score in overtime, the forward spoke to media. “We’re in a tough position and there’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to come back here for a Game Seven,” he said.
As Cooper says, the Penguins certainly should think they can win Game Six. Imagine if they didn’t. Imagine if the Penguins’ forwards suggested that they weren’t sure about Game Six. Maybe, just maybe, they could somehow topple the Tampa Bay Lightning and squeak one out in Game Seven to win the series.
The false modesty and decorum about hockey is one thing, but the bottom line is that the Penguins need to win. And they’ve faced adversity all season long, with a coaching change and a “slumping” Sidney Crosby making headlines throughout the regular season. They also saw injuries to key players like Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and have contended with a goaltending controversy of sorts.
And that doesn’t even mention the recent loss of Trevor Daley, whose presence on the blueline will be missed.
But here we are and the Penguins have every right to believe in themselves, with or without the headline-grabbing remarks. Much has been made about how nobody asked Malkin or Hornqvist to make those sorts of “guarantees,” but nobody should have to. These Penguins believe in their chances – and they should.