MONTREAL – Anyone ready to write off Alex Kovalev’s season based on his un-Kovy-like start might want to ask Ryan Miller and the Sabres about that.
With expectations through the roof for Kovalev following his brilliant 84-point campaign of a year ago, there was no shortage of sprained ankles from everyone jumping off AK-27’s bandwagon. After scoring the overtime winner to down the Sabres, Kovalev appears to be heating up with 10 points in his last 10 games.
“I’m more confident shooting the puck right now. I’ve been working hard in practice at hitting the right spots and I’ve also been watching my own DVD,” said Kovalev with a smile, about his wildly popular instructional video launched last season.
Whatever the ultra-skilled winger is doing these days, it’s working. Despite his sluggish start to the campaign, Kovalev is nevertheless co-leading the Habs with 26 points along with Andrei Markov
“I’ve been saying all along that it was going to happen and the puck would start to go in. I knew we just had to keep pushing and working hard,” said Kovalev. “I think what we’re all doing a much better job of right now is getting the puck on net and jumping on the rebounds. We’ve been talking about the fact that our goals won’t all be pretty.”
While Kovalev does have a point, his goals still fall into the highlight reel category more often than not. His OT winner was no different as his seeing-eye wrist shot somehow found a small hole past Miller.
“Since the season started, Kovy has been the one with the most scoring chances on team and he was the one creating the most chances for his teammates. The problem was his shots kept hitting the post or going off a leg,” explained head coach Guy Carbonneau. “We all had the feeling that once he scored one, he would relax and get rolling and that’s what he’s doing right now.”
Called for a pair of phantom penalties, including the one that gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead with under five minutes to go in regulation, Kovalev had time to plot his revenge.
“Those were a couple of frustrating penalties and you could tell he felt bad about them, but he kept working hard,” said Carbonneau. “He showed his teammates he was there for them and that he wanted to win this game for them tonight.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com