BROSSARD – Alex Ovechkin is a nightmare on skates for any NHL defenseman. Anyone but Andrei Markov
, that is.
Usually pumped to be on the ice with or against his fellow countryman, the Habs’ All-Star blue-liner didn’t get the chance to line up across from Ovechkin as often as he would’ve liked this year. Missing a huge chunk of the season with a severed tendon in his foot, Markov was shelved for two of the Canadiens’ four outings against the Capitals this year, but limited the Caps’ sniper to just two points combined in the pair of games he was in uniform for.
It was also against Washington on February 10 that Markov broke the 30-minute benchmark for the only time this season, playing a monster 30:58 to shadow Ovi and his hefty load of 29:30 on the night.
Known for his efficiency at both ends of the ice, Markov knows exactly what he needs to do to make sure he’s playing shut-down hockey all series long.
“The playoffs are a whole different environment,” explained Markov, who posted a team-high plus-11 differential in the regular season. “As a defenseman, I have to be totally focused on my defensive coverage because one small mistake can cost us a game. If I don’t score goals or I’m not getting points, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the team wins.”
With his 109 points in only 72 games to go with his 368 shots and 183 hits, Ovi presents a quadruple threat to the opposition on every shift.
“Anytime he’s on the ice he’s dangerous. He’s a great offensive player and you always have to keep an eye out for him. You can’t give him any room out there. He’s strong, has a great shot and amazing vision,” admitted Markov, who knows full well that he will have his work cut out for him as he prepares to face Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom just to name a few.
“I love to compete. This is a real challenge, but I like facing the best players in the league,” continued Markov. “We’re going to have to play our game and try to slow him down as best we can. I don’t think Ovechkin will be very happy if he doesn’t win any trophies this year.”
An angry Ovechkin: there’s a vision bound to make Markov smile, as the Habs’ blue line anchor would surely love to deprive his Russian comrade of hockey’s biggest prize of all. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See alsoThe art of the upset Spoiler alert Vote for the play of the week - April 12 First round schedule unveiled