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Evgeni Malkin called his Game 6 shot like Mark Messier, so why is nobody talking about it?

This was never destined for hockey lore.

Jason Behnken/Getty Images

In the spring of 1994, New York Rangers captain Mark Messier made a guarantee that would entrench him in NHL lore.

With his team down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Final to the New Jersey Devils, Messier told a throng of reporters the Rangers were "going to go in and win Game 6".

"We're going to go in and win Game 6," Messier said. "That was the focus this morning and it's the way we feel right now. We've done that all year, we've won all the games we've had to win.

"I know we're going to go in and win Game 6 and bring it back here (to the Garden) for Game 7 ... We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That's exactly what we're going to do in Game 6."

Messier followed up his claim with a hat trick, leading the Rangers past the Devils to a Stanley Cup win.

Almost 22 years to the day later, Evgeni Malkin made a similar guarantee with his Pittsburgh Penguins facing elimination in the Eastern Conference Final in Game 6. (Skip to 4:40 to hear it.)

The next day, the Penguins stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road to force a Game 7.

Malkin was as right as Messier. But how much fanfare did you hear about it the day after? Not much, right? Considering how Messier's story took off, you'd think something like that would engulf social media and sports talk around the country.

But it didn't. We all moved on. Here's why.

The Penguins' situation was not as dire as the Rangers'

When Messier made his prediction in 1994, his Rangers were trending the wrong way, fast.

Only the Detroit Red Wings scored more per game in the playoffs than the Rangers (3.52 GPG). But after taking a 2-1 series lead over the Devils, the goals dried up. Over the next two games, the Devils held New York to two goals on 48 shots. Everyone could sense the series slipping away from the Rangers. For Messier to call his shot at that moment, against those odds, took tremendous boldness.

But Malkin's Penguins weren't in nearly as much trouble. Through five games of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, three had been decided by one goal. Two of those games had gone to overtime, and Pittsburgh's last two losses had involved a furious rally fallen short in Game 3 and two leads chipped away by Tampa Bay in Game 4. And Messier was the lone scoring wolf on the Rangers in that '94 series (he finished with 11 points; the next closest was defenseman Brian Leetch with six). Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel are sharing the scoring load with 15 points between them.

Messier's guarantee seemed foolhardy. Malkin's simply seemed more than plausible.

Malkin didn't steal the Game 6 show like Messier did

Here's an interesting New York Times tidbit from NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick, who was the Devils' broadcaster in 1994:

"We weren't making such a big deal of (Messier's prediction) early when the Devils were dominating," Emrick said. "But we certainly did later after Mark scored. It certainly became part of hockey lore."

That makes sense. Messier's first goal wasn't just ripe for the picking as a "putting the team on my back to make this come true" narrative. It changed the dynamic of the game in New York's favor.

There are a couple of differences in Malkin's Game 6. First, the Penguins were dominant from the very get-go and kept dominating until the third period:

pensgraph

Malkin didn't need to channel the spirit of Mark Messier, save the Penguins with a hat trick and become legend. He and his teammates just wasted no time in taking care of business.

Yes, Malkin was a force to be reckoned with throughout. But he was joined by fellow superstar Sidney Crosby, who overtook the whole prediction narrative by killing a dumb "leadership" narrative that had arisen around him with his third game-winning goal of the series. Malkin finished with a single assist.

Throw in another superstar playing alongside (and just as good as) Malkin and a wholly dominant Penguins performance and you get a prediction story far more diluted than Messier's.

Malkin's declaration wasn't as emphatic, given the context

This is the big one.

Here's the quote most fans and media members in the hockeysphere saw:

That's clearly out of context, but even so, it doesn't quite have the same "We're going to win tonight" punch that Messier's quote had.

But then you add context, and it gets even more dull.

Here's what New York Times reporter John Giannone wrote right after Messier's prediction:

The questions that elicited Messier's response had little to do with a prediction. But Messier's replies were pointed and direct. They were as clear as the Champagne the Rangers still hope to drink from the Stanley Cup in the coming weeks. And they carried a distinct message from the weary leader to the embattled troops:

I've put my five Stanley Cup rings, my reputation and my neck on the chopping block, boys. Now save me.

So, Messier didn't even answer the question he was asked. He clearly knew what he was going to say and when he was going to say it for the greatest possible effect.

Malkin's prediction was nowhere near that purposeful:

Reporter: "You talk about (Tampa Bay's) leadership. How ready are you guys, your team leaders, to step up?"

Malkin: "It's a huge game for leadership, of course. And yeah, it's a tough situation. But if we see it's (a 3-2 series) it's not over, for sure. We (were down in 2009) in Detroit, 3-2, and came back and won the Stanley Cup. It's not easy, but it's just one game. Focus on one game ... I believe in my team, I believe in myself and we're coming back to Pittsburgh for sure."

You can scroll back up and watch his response again. It wasn't planned. It wasn't an intentional call to action for his teammates. It was a statement tacked on to a response about his team's confidence in these situations. It was simply, and honestly, how he feels about his teammates. It wasn't so much a prediction as it was a pronouncement of faith. And as I pointed out in the first section, nothing about this series should have made him feel otherwise.

And so we move on to Game 7, the bold prediction come true of Evgeni Malkin relegated to a minor footnote in an otherwise thrilling series. Perhaps it's just a sign of the current state of sports, where we expect our athletes and stars to believe in themselves and confidently tell us so. Malkin's Game 6 prediction had shades of Messier's legendary moment, but the situation lacked the colorful edge that made Messier's quote stand out.