You're on pace for a career-high in points this season. What's changed in your game?
I just switched the gear, bought a new car… But seriously, I don't know. Maybe I just gained a lot more experience. The first year was a bit tough for me, because the NHL was the new league foe me. The second year started off a bit tough also, but I started gaining more confidence as the season went on and that confidence slowly grew. Of course, there was Sid's injury, and that, perhaps, gave me even more confidence and experience, I also discovered new qualities within myself, perhaps, maybe even the leadership qualities. I also felt that all the guys started to look up to me. That's when it probably all started for me — at the end of last season. And now I feel very confident.
I heard that during the second intermission of your game against the Tampa Bay Lightning you were trying to motivate your team by offering $1,000 to win the game …
Wow! Who gave me up? (Laughing) How did this information spread? This only happened in the locker room behind closed doors.
You can forgive the source.
Yes, it was true. I became $1,000 poorer, to be honest, and the guys started running [on the ice]. But I scored the winning goal, and I am now regretting it (Malkin joked). But money is not important, because other guys also put their money. What is important is that we won that game and that game gave us a lot of confidence. Maybe my money cheered the guys up a little bit? But I also tried to help with my play on the ice.
Based on those results, it would only cost you about $42,000 for your team to go undefeated and win the Stanley Cup. So have you thought about doing this for every game?
If you start helping me [with the money], then of course I will start putting money up every game! Otherwise, no. But you don't win every time you put money on. It just happened that this time we won. But you are saying it in such a way as if it was the first time I did that in three years. That's not the case. This time it was $1,000, but sometimes we put less money up and we lose those games. It doesn't depend on it.
Did that money go to the team fund?
Yes. We either give it to our team doctors or physical therapists, or we all together as a team go out somewhere for dinner when we're on the road. But the money is spent, it doesn't accumulate!
Why did you do it and not someone else? And why $1,000 and not $500?
The more the better for the team! We will have a great party soon, drink more expensive drinks!
But putting money is a tradition. For example, some players put money when they are playing against the team from their home town. We also had the same pool going at the All Star game in Montreal. We got together with Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Kovalev and me. There was no fund. But we put $500 each for the person who will go deeper in the shootout challenge to collect. That's how I lost again and became $500 poorer. Kovalev won, because he scored on his shot and we didn't. He had a really good All Star game, to be honest! He collected $2,000 from us, now he will also sell the car [that Kovalev won as the All Star game MVP]!