Saturday, February 21, 2009

A turning point?

Not sure if it will be for the team, only because the Ottawa Senators are just that bad, but it very well might be for Alex Kovalev.

I don't want to make too much out of one game, but Kovalev showed some real jump in the first half of Saturday afternoon's romp over the Sens, and seemed to lose interest when the score got a bit out of hand even though he had some flashes of energy on the penalty kill.

Besides, he already had a goal and two assists at that point, his first three-point effort since getting two goals and two assists on Nov. 1 in Long Island, a span of 48 games. And he had the Bell Centre sellout of 21,273 eating out of his hands as early as the pre-game skate with chants of support.

Bob Gainey noted the other day that if Kovalev even approaches the player he was last year, it will be as if the team made a big trade. If indeed that happens, then his two-game forced rest will officially become Gainey's most brilliant move since he was hired six years ago.

Almost more important than Kovalev's performance was that of the Montreal power play, which went 3-for-4 and is now 7-for-12 in the three games since the arrival of Mathieu Schneider. He got another goal on a point blast, and in the only power play where Montreal didn't score I noticed something that I think is very telling about Schneider's impact.

At one point the puck got to Andrei Markov and Mike Fisher, playing the top of the box for the Sens, immediately rushed out to cover Schneider. That move opens up a world of possibilities for Markov, either a pass into the high slot or that bread-and-butter diagonal pass to the right circle that simply hasn't been available all year because the guy playing he Fisher role has stayed home.

That threat of a heavy point shot is clearly what's been missing for the Habs power play, and having it may in fact allow Kovalev to thrive. His set up on Tomas Plekanec's fifth goal in his last five games came from the high slot and went right through the box, a play that may not have been available if the Sens weren't so concerned about Schneider on the right point.

The Canadiens absolutely had to grab these two points because it's a very tough road between now and the trade deadline, with Vancouver here Tuesday, then at Philadelphia on Friday, and back home for San Jose next Saturday. They then have a four-day break until the March 4 deadline, which may very be a jittery week for some of the Habs if they don't win two of three between now and then.

1 comment:

Arjun said...

The Habs played well enough to win, at least 30 minutes worth of good hockey. Then they stopped skating and took their penalties and Halak helped his own cause. I'm guessing Carbo goes with the hot goalie but Halak hasn't had 2 good games in a row in ages. The best development: Carbo stopped overplaying Kostpoulos. And Komiserik played not bad too, his best game in a while. Yes, it was Ottawa, but Ottawa's been a better team than Montreal for at least two weeks. They may be below us in the standings but only Phoenix has been worse than Montreal lately. Meaning every team we've played has been "better".