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Andrei Markov quietly leading Canadiens

Second-highest scoring defenseman in Montreal history going strong at 38

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- Andrei Markov has never won the Norris Trophy. He's never even finished higher than sixth in the voting.

He's never won the Stanley Cup, never been named to a postseason All-Star Team, never really been recognized for any single achievement over the course of his 16 NHL seasons, all spent with the Montreal Canadiens.

All he has done in that time is quietly excel, perhaps not as one of the League's elite, but as one of its top 15 or 20 defensemen on a consistent basis for a long period of time.

And now Markov is the second-highest scoring defenseman in Canadiens history.

Markov tied Guy Lapointe for second on that list in a 4-1 win Tuesday against the Dallas Stars by collecting his 572nd career point in his 985th game, leaving him behind Larry Robinson, who had 883 points in 1,202 games.

Video: OTT@MTL: Markov drills hard strike past Anderson

Markov, 38, assisted on a goal by rookie Artturi Lehkonen, who was 5 years old when Markov made his NHL debut in 2000, to tie Lapointe. When the Bell Centre crowd was informed of the milestone, it gave Markov a long standing ovation.

"It's a big honor to be close to those people," Markov said of his place in Canadiens history. "I'm proud, you know? I'm proud to be there. I worked hard for that."

It has been difficult to get to know Markov over the past 17 years because he has managed to remain a guarded, private person playing on one of the NHL's most visible teams. He does not do many media interviews, public appearances or star in commercials.

Markov does all his communicating with the public on the ice, where he has displayed his intelligence for the game and vision for so long it is almost taken for granted.

Even coach Claude Julien, who coached Markov during his first stint as Canadiens coach from 2002-06, joined the crowd in applause.

"He's earned that respect, and there's certainly no pun intended here, but he really earned that quietly," Julien said. "He's one of those guys that doesn't make a lot of noise, comes out, plays his game and he certainly doesn't ruffle feathers. He's so in tune with doing his job and doing it right, I think that's what's impressive about him."

Markov's play this season has shown how important a good brain is in hockey. The body may slow down with age, and in Markov's case it has even though he keeps himself in tremendous shape, but intelligence allows you to adjust your game to compensate for those changes in your physical abilities.

This is what Markov has done seamlessly, and the results are there with 36 points (six goals, 30 assists) in 57 games this season, a 0.63 points-per-game average that was 12th in the NHL among defenseman who have played at least 40 games prior to games Wednesday.

Video: WPG@MTL: Markov finishes off slick passing play

"His hockey IQ is unreal, he's really smart, and that helps with his decision-making and passing," Markov's defense partner Shea Weber said. "Obviously he's got the skill to pass the puck, but he sees the ice so well it almost looks like he's dissecting it sometimes."

Weber is the latest to benefit from playing next to Markov in Montreal, a partnership that has been in place for 15 games.

But the list of players that have not only flourished next to Markov, but profited from it, is a long one.

There was Sheldon Souray, who scored 26 goals in 2006-07 before leaving as an unrestricted free agent to sign a 5-year, $27 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Mark Streit put up 62 points taking Souray's place in 2007-08, and he was rewarded with a 5-year, $20.5 million free agent contract by the New York Islanders. Then it was Mike Komisarek, a physical presence next to Markov before he signed a 5-year, $22.5 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009.

"He has chemistry with everybody," Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said. "You see everyone comes in here and scores goals, look at [Markov] and the plays he makes on those goals."

Markov can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and Pacioretty joked he hopes he will never retire because it would cost him 10 goals a year. The public may not know much about him and he may not get the recognition he's deserved, but it's doubtful Markov cares much.

"He's just a guy who's comfortable coming to the rink, doing the right thing and doing the right thing for his teammates," Pacioretty said. "And that recognition's always been here in the room. When someone gets traded here the first thing they say is, 'I can't wait to go out there with [Markov]. Some of these passes I see him make, I can't wait to be on the other end of those.'

"So I know around the League and in this locker room he's always gotten that recognition. But he's just a guy that flies under the radar."

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