Remember the days when Evgeni Malkin could barely smile in English?
When he reacted to a notepad or microphone as if someone was waving a cobra in his face?
Turns out that a pretty playful personality was getting lost in translation, as Malkin demonstrated when asked at a news conference yesterday to assess the work of Max Talbot, his right winger of late.
"[He plays with] lots of emotion," Malkin said. "[He never stops] skating. Yeah, little bit bad hands."
Malkin began to laugh, as did his audience. But he wasn't finished.
"He has lots of scoring chances, [but doesn't] score," Malkin said. "Just [into an] empty net. It's OK. He'll learn over the summer."
Talbot, who was sitting a few feet away and rarely is at a loss for words, pronounced himself to be "speechless."
Perhaps he shouldn't have been, because the crack about Talbot's hands apparently wasn't an isolated incident.
Coach Dan Bylsma said it's "not odd for him to crack up the room or say something that gets a laugh" and that "of all the guys in that [dressing] room, he probably likes a joke more than the next guy."
He also might have offered some insight on why Malkin is averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time.
"He's the first guy to laugh at my jokes," Bylsma said. "That's why I like him."
Of course, Malkin's playoff-leading 33 points might have something to do with that, too.
The Penguins outhit Detroit, 36-17, in their 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, and figure to try to do something similar in Game 4 tonight.
Playing the body as much as possible, with the objective of wearing down the opposition, actually has been a significant part of their strategy since Bylsma took over as coach Feb. 15.
The Penguins were credited with just 13 hits in their 3-1 loss in Detroit in Game 2 but not because they made a conscious effort to avoid body contact after recording 33 in the opener.
"It's something we've tried to do all series," said defenseman Brooks Orpik, who accounted for five of the Game 3 hits. "[In Game 3] maybe we had some more opportunities as opposed to the first couple of games.
"The longer the series goes, it's to our advantage. Obviously, I think that when we got to the third period, they looked pretty tired."
Bylsma didn't view goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's 27-save performance in Game 3 as redemption for the suspect goals he allowed the previous two games.
Mostly because he didn't think there was a need for it.
"Our room has not wavered on our goaltender," Bylsma said. "He's answered questions that have been asked about him from the media for a long time. We're here because of the way our team has played, and your goaltender is always a big part of that.
"At times, he's had to make huge saves to keep us in games, and he did that in Round 1. He did that in Round 2. He did it in Round 3, as well.
"He may have not been the focal point for our team, but in that second period [of Game 3] we needed saves, and he gave a couple of big ones."
Bylsma was Wayne Gretzky's teammate in Los Angeles and allowed that, despite some obvious differences between the two, he sees similarities with Gretzky and Malkin.
"[Malkin] has a size [advantage] and a physical aspect to his game that's different," he said. "Wayne was tremendous in vision and anticipation of the game that made him special.
"But there are things that each guy can do that only a few can do. It's a gift offensively, anticipation-wise, the ability to seem to know the time and space that they have and even don't have at times. And even better yet, they know when other people have that time and space to deliver the puck to them."