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Climbing the list

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Fourteen seasons into his NHL career, Andrei Markov continues to cement his place among the greats in Canadiens history.

On Sunday night, the 35-year-old rearguard reached another poignant hockey milestone, registering one assist, matching Hall-of-Famer Doug Harvey to sit tied with third place on the all-time scoring list among Canadiens defensemen.

“I never thought I would have reached that mark and gone that far. It’s something special. It’s a great feeling to be among the legends and to hold a place in the great history of our team. We’re the most historic organization in hockey. It’s something special for any player to be in the history books,” confided Markov, who reached the mark in 777 career NHL games, and now sits 125 points back of Hall-of-Famer Guy Lapointe for second place in a category led by fellow Hall-of-Famer Larry Robinson. “It’s all thanks to my coaches over the years, and my defense partners and teammates that played with me from the start. Craig Rivet, Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Sheldon Souray. I played with good players then, and I’m playing with good players now. This is important to me. Milestones like these don’t happen many times in your life or your career. Hopefully, I’m not going to stop there and I’ll just keep on going.”

Those who’ve spent time playing alongside the gifted blue-liner believe he still has plenty of gas in the tank, insisting that the two-time NHL All-Star and three-time Olympian has earned every accolade he’s been given along the way with his stellar play on the ice and his relentless work ethic off it.

“I think there’s a lot more hockey left to be played for him. I don’t think this is by all means the end of the road for Marky. It’s definitely a cool accomplishment,” offered P.K. Subban, who credits the former sixth-round selection with teaching him the ins-and-outs of playing at the NHL level in the early stages of his career. “He’s the longest-standing guy in the organization right now. There’s something to be said for having such a long and storied career with such a prestigious team. It’s the icing on the cake for him. He hasn’t won a Norris Trophy, but he’s probably deserved it many times. Marky is one of the best in the game right now. It’s about time he gets that superstar, legend recognition.

“These are milestones that will be in the history books for a very long time. Doug Harvey is one of the best defensemen to ever play the game,” added Subban, who likened Markov to countrymen Sergei Zubov and Sergei Gonchar, both of whom are among the all-time greatest Russian-born defensemen. “To be a defenseman that cracks the Top 3 on any all-time scoring list is a significant accomplishment, especially with one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports. He’s a special player, and a guy I look up to.”

Unlike Subban, Mike Weaver hasn’t been privy to seeing Markov ply his trade for long, but the 12-year NHL veteran can’t help but marvel at what the Canadiens’ No. 79 offers up every time he hits the ice.

“He’s almost kind of a Montreal Canadiens trademark defenseman. He’s a guy that has that ‘Wow’ factor every game. His creativity is amazing, and so are his vision and his poise with the puck. It’s just a huge accomplishment on his part. I’m sure he’ll continue in that same direction and extend it even further,” praised Weaver, who was paired with Markov at times during the Canadiens’ dramatic postseason run last spring, watching as the Voskresensk native co-led the team with nine assists in 17 playoff games. “From an offensive standpoint, he consistently makes things tough on opposing forwards, and he’s always making things happen. You never know what he’s going to do out there, and that’s what makes him such a great player.”

A dynamic player in his own right, Subban is adamant Markov is the epitome of an all-around defender, and, more importantly, an integral piece of the puzzle for a team boasting a crop of young guns hungry to learn from the likes of one of the most consistent and reliable players ever to don the CH.

“Marky brings leadership, wisdom and the concept of playing the game the right way. You don’t accumulate that much offense and that many points without playing smart hockey. He’s also done that being a plus-player and being solid defensively,” offered the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, who currently sits 17th on the Canadiens’ all-time points list among defensemen with 45 goals and 175 points in 296 games.

“He also just cares so much about winning. He wants to win so badly. He’s got a passion for it, and he wants the team to be successful. It’s one of the qualities that true leaders have,” continued Subban, who, like Markov, is one of four players – including Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty – acting as alternate captains for the Canadiens during the 2014-15 campaign. “I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps as closely as I can. Hopefully, I can be a part of reaching milestones like that one day.”

While Subban’s inevitable ascent up a host of all-time lists has never been in doubt, the same can be said about Markov’s modesty and humbleness, characteristics that have defined him since he joined the Canadiens on a full-time basis back in 2000-01.

“I’ve never tried to do something special like this. I’ve just tried to be myself, play my game and play the team game. I’ve always tried to be a team player. I believe it’s a team game. We achieve success together. I’m just one person. This game is about the teammates next to you. They support you all the time,” concluded Markov. “I’m lucky to be a part of the greatest organization in hockey, and I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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