Here’s all you need to know:
Philadelphia and your surprising Montreal Canadiens are second and third, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers are at the Bell Centre Tuesday night.
We know Alexandre Picard is no Andrei Markov.
We’re about to find out if Picard is better than Ryan O’Byrne.
The medical staff at RDS say Markov is gone for three months.
That’s a premature diagnosis, but it doesn’t look good. The most telling part of the replay is Markov slamming his fist into the boards in frustration.
So, what now?
Yannick Weber? MAB?
Markov’s durability has become a big question mark.
Yes, the skate cut in the opening game last season was a fluke.
But he played only 45 regular season games. Then Markov was gone again, one game into the Pittsburgh playoff series.
Markov missed the first 10 games this season, played seven and then …
Andrei Markov will be 33 in December. He’s played 623 regular season NHL games, another 29 in the playoffs.
Bobby Orr was only 30 when his knees forced him to hang up the skates. He’d played 657 in the regular season and 74 in the playoffs. In his last three seasons, the Greatest Ever played 10, 20 and six games.
Maybe the Orr comparison is too gloomy.
Again, the RDS three-month diagnosis is not official.
But fans have to think about where the team stands minus its most talented Dman.
• Goaltending: No problem. Carey Price was spectacular against Carolina, and he’ll be ready for Philly.
• Defence: Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek were the Canadiens best pairing this week. They played against the Sedins and against the best lines of Boston and Carolina (though you kinda wish they were out against Eric Staal late in the third last night, eh?)
Josh Gorges, who was just getting into a groove with Markov, probably will be reunited with Hal Gill.
P.K. and Picard? Do-able, but it would limit Subban’s minutes. He played 20:39 last night and made some great plays. It’s amazing how qquickly he can recover and be at top speed.
The penalty-kill was strong in Markov’s absence, so that won’t be a problem.
The power play is another story. Three PP goals last night, but two came after the Markov injury.
The Canadiens were 7-2-1 before Markov returned to the lineup. You can say the early-season schedule was soft, but you also have to acknowledge the team developed good habits that have produced winning hockey.
The Canadiens are the only team in the NHL that has not surrendered more than three goals in regulation this season.
They have not lost a game in which they scored first. This tells you something about the Canadiens’ character, discipline and determination.
Andrei Markov is (I nearly typed “was”) a great player.
But here’s a bold assertion: Markov is no longer the best player on the Montreal Canadiens.
The best player on this team wears number 14.
And Tomas Plekanec will be in the lineup on Tuesday.
As will 17 other guys who have learned how to win.