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05-03-2006, 10:19 AM
  #94
Habsaku
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Montreal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike8
Savard's not available, and Arnott's lousy.




This is one of the few cases where I disagree with ya.

I really like what Kovalev brings to the team. Sure, he'll turn over the puck. He'll make low-percentage plays. But, and I may be reaching here, it seems to me talented players work harder with him. It seems that Markov gets inspired and plays harder--and relies on Kovalev.

When Markov's trying to control a bouncing puck on the point on the PP, and an opposing forward is converging on him as he desperately tries to hold the line--where does Markov throw the puck? To Kovalev. He just tosses the puck in Kovalev's direction with a no-look pass. Why? Because he trusts Kovalev. Same deal with a number of players; there's a trust they have that Kovalev can do what no other player can do--not even Koivu.

I've also sensed a good bit of leadership from Kovalev over this season. A good example is when Ribeiro was getting into his more chippy play down the stretch, against New Jersey. He battles for position in front of the net to deflect a shot. Brodeur makes the save, no real rebound, Ribeiro takes an extra shot just to be a pest. NJ takes exception--especially Langenbrunner--and hammers Ribeiro to behind the net. Kovalev immediately intervenes, and stands up in a big way for Ribeiro. The same way Souray's stood up for Koivu, or any Hab. There was a certain 'vet helping the youngster' out. He's done the same when Perezhogin, or Bulis, or any younger player was being hit after the whistle.

Also, in the games I've gone to or practices I've been to, Kovalev's very active in talking to younger players and seemingly instructing them of what to do.

Like I said: I'm reaching. This is speculation. But my sense is that Kovalev's one of the 'Big Four' when it comes to leadership (Koivu, Souray, Rivet being the others). He's highly-respected for his talents among hockey players and Russians in particular. With Montreal somewhat-heavily invested in Russian youth (Kostitsyn brothers, Emelin, Perezhogin, and Markov who's still a 'new wave' Russian) ... I don't think it's a bad thing to have Kovalev around.

Are there better players? Sure. But I maintain that Kovalev's a game-breaker who commands respect from his teammates and intimidates opponents with his abilities. Is he more flash than finish? Yes, but he can still finish enough of them to be intimidating, and he puts up more numbers on the board than he hurts the team with.

Kovalev's a gamer. He was dominating in several playoff games. No matter how dominating he is though, and no matter how effortless it seems, it's just not possible to dominate game-in, game-out. But to be able to bank on Kovalev dominating at least a couple playoff games, and being a force in a couple more (in each series) is worth his salary.

I maintain what I stated earlier this season about Kovalev: consistency is a talent. Take your everyday life for example: everyone has days where they're incredibly productive and efficient. Everything just seems to work. Then there are days where, no matter what you do, it's a lousy day. For some people, this happens more than others. It's easy to say: well, they're athletes being paid millions--they need to get over it. But it doesn't work that way.

Koivu's a different type of player than Kovalev because he treats 'bad days' differently. A bad day (read: game) for Koivu means he'll find another way to be useful; whether it's a diving play on the PK to spring Sundstrom on a breakaway, or making a big hit to get his team physical on the forecheck. This is why Koivu's the consumate professional and an excellent leader.

When Murray's having a bad day, he can still block shots. There's no right or wrong way to block a shot, from a team-standpoint (from an individual standpoint, you can wind up killing yourself ... but that's a different story). The point is that Murray's job has less responsibility, so he can 'mask' bad days through simple plays. Because simple plays is what he does.

For talented players, where responsibility entails carrying your entire line more or less, it's not so easy.

It's why we see star players making stupid plays. Forsberg's a superstar and one of the best gamers in this generation, in my opinion. Yet his Flyers were thrashed 7-1, and he made at least two brutal defensive plays and couldn't get going offensively ... this is with Gagne and Knuble, two vastly superior players to Ribeiro and Bulis. In other words, Forsberg had a bad day and couldn't find a way to be terribly useful on this night. It happens. That's why multiple star players and offensive catalysts are needed. Flyers have two offensive catalysts: Forsberg and Gagne. Montreal has two offensive catalysts: Kovalev and Koivu. Both teams are out now.

Long way to get to a basic point, eh?

Anyway, I don't tend to be able to tolerate players who can't adapt their games and be useful in other ways... but Kovalev's an exception. He does provide leadership, in my opinion, and is a 'special' player. A gamer, and a gamebreaker. Gotta keep those types. He's not too expensive, either. And he's not been lousy defensively. His main issue on the defensive end is that he'll turn over the puck more frequently than one would want.

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Koivu's replaceable, sure. But no need to replace him. He's a type of guy that complements a Kovalev type perfectly on a team. Add one more offensive catalyst (down the middle) to this team, and I bet the look of the team changes dramatically.

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I know this wasn't explicitly your point, but I've seen you (and a few others I respect) criticizing Kovalev when I feel it's undeserved. I think he's a real quality individual who's passionate about the game and brings his A game when it matters most. I like having him and Koivu around the younger players. I like the fact that Montreal's obtained another star player to have around the younger players. This'll be important for the youth; to have Kovalev and Koivu around, feed off their character, talent and ability. Hopefully learn some tricks.

Here's hoping we see another quality veteran added to the mix. At that point I think the team will be in good shape. Not great shape yet, but good enough to make some noise.
Mike8, that was the best post I've read all year.

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