Hands up those of you who thought that Alex Kovalev had played his last game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens when he was told, by Bob Gainey, to take a seat for a couple of games earlier this season?
Go ahead, don’t be shy.
Now. Hands up those of you who never thought that Alex Kovalev would emerge from the NHL trade deadline as a member of the Montreal Canadiens; those of you who were CONVINCED that, with Kovalev set to become an unrestricted free agent, and with the kind of season he was having, that Bob Gainey would send his enigmatic veteran packing?
Come on. I know you’re out there.
And while we’re at it. How about a show of hands from those of you who STILL believe that Kovalev needs the Captain’s “C” on his jersey if the Canadiens are truly going to get the most out of him?
Well, suffice to say that Alex Kovalev is still a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Boy, is he ever.
And not only is Saku Koivu still the Captain of this team, which is the way it should be, but Koivu and Kovalev have combined with Alex Tanguay to take this team by the scruff of its neck and drag it toward the finish line and, in all likely hood, into the playoffs.
Kovalev scored his 24th of the season and added three assists to lead the Habs to a 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night at the Air Canada Centre. The win came exactly two weeks after the Leafs picked apart the Habs in a game that ended with the chant of “CAR-BO, CAR-BO” ringing through the Bell Centre rafters.
Much has happened over these last two weeks: most of it in the form of the Kovalev-Koivu-Tanguay line; with Kovalev leading the way. Over his last six games, number 27 has collected 15 points: including a power play goal and three assists last night in Toronto. Kovalev is delivering like only Alex Kovalev can. And it’s because that we know what Kovalev is capable of, that made the first half of the season so frustrating.
But that all changed when Gainey and Kovalev had that little “chat,” a move by the GM that left a good number of Habs fans wondering: How in the world can Gainey expect to get the most of Kovalev by scolding the veteran like a school kid and sending him to his corner???
Well, by doing just that: by scolding Kovalev and sending him to his corner. A proud man, Kovalev obviously wanted no part of Gainey’s plan. But upon his return to the lineup, Kovalev admitted that maybe, just maybe, it was the right move at the right time.
Clearly, it was.
Listen. When all is said and done, I think it’s a good bet that Alex Kovalev WON’T be back as a member of the Montreal Canadiens next season, despite his heroics of late. But I’m going to hedge that bet with the reality that the Canadiens have not had a good track record when it comes to luring top-flight free-agent talent to Montreal. You’re going to have to make up all those Kovalev goals and assists, some how. However, at the end of the day, it could mean that, as a UFA, Kovalev could walk away with the Canadiens getting absolutely nothing in return.
So be it.
That’s a scenario that Gainey will deal with, when this is over. That’s the future. This is now. And for the Canadiens, the future IS now, when it comes to salvaging what’s left of what has been, up until two weeks ago, a wretched centennial season.
One of the key’s to getting it done? Alex Kovalev. We knew that going into the season. And at no time has it been any clearer than over the last two weeks.