Three words of advice for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin:
Sign Andrei Markov.
Give him three years for money that falls somewhere between profligate and insulting.
He deserves it, and he’ll earn every nickel.
Health advisory to P.K. Subban’s legion of fans: You should be sitting down when you read this.
Through the first 25 games of the season, Andrei Markov has been your Montreal Canadiens’ best defenceman.
(I am a proud member of the P.K. Legion. Good thing I was sitting down to write that.)
Markov had three assists Wednesday night in Buffalo. That brought his season total to 15.
Some other numbers: Markov is averaging 25 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time per game. That’s one second less than Zdeno Chara – and 23 seconds more than P.K.
Markov is plus-11. His 17 points tie his with Alex Galchenyuk.
But you can’t gauge Markov’s value purely on the basis of stats. In his quiet way, he’s a team leader. And he’s made a succession of defence partners better – in the case of Mike Komisarek, deceptively so.
Markov, who will turn 35 five days before Christmas, is like a coach on the ice. After losing several steps to those gruesome knee injuries, Markov has retooled his game. He relies on his brain more than his legs; and with the exception of Tomas Plekanec, there’s a higher hockey IQ on the Canadiens’ roster.
Great hockey teams are built from the goaltender out, and the Canadiens are looking good.
A solid performance in Buffalo was just the latest indication that Carey Price is among the league’s elite.
P.K. is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. His otherworldly skills are a complement to Markov,
Is there a better pairing in the league?
Maybe Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin. Or Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo. Shea Weber-Seth Jones?
But Markov-Subban are right up there. And I’d like to see a few more seasons of them.
Of course, that means re-signing Subban. Thank you, Rogers Media , for pushing up the salary cap.
The team’s second pairing is signed through the 2017-’18 season.
Josh Gorges is not the second coming of Doug Harvey, but the undrafted and undersized defenceman plays his heart out. His partner, Alexei Emelin, has played five games this season and the Canadiens have won four of them.
That’s a pretty good Top 4. And the Canadiens have two first-round draft choices playing defence in Hamilton. I want Markov around to help Tinordi and Beaulieu … if only by example.
I thought the D – including the valiant Douglas Murray – were more solid the Canadiens’ forwards in Buffalo.
The lines are still a work in progress … which is a bit disconcerting after 25 games.
I like Plekanec, Gionta and either Daniel Brière or, if a lead needs protecting, Travis Moen.
The current top line – David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and the amazing Brendan Gallagher – had some productive shifts in the Buffalo zone. And Gallagher’s energy drew a stupid boarding penalty by Tyler Myers.
They’re not quite the equal of Boston’s yet, but the Canadiens’ fourth line is coming together nicely. Ryan White is hitting, working hard and avoiding bad penalties. Moen skates up and down his wing, doing a quietly efficient job. And rookie Michaël Bournival brings speed and youthful energy.
Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk have struggled since they lost Gallagher to the DD line. I love Brandon Prust, but he’s not going to have defenceman backing p and creating open ice the way Gallagher does.
I can’t see Michel Therrien tinkering with a lineup that’s won four in a row. But I wonder if Brière might not be a better fit with Eller and Galchenyuk.
The win in Buffalo was a good way to start a very tough segment of the Canadiens’ schedule. They play seven games in 11 days – all against Eastern Conference opponents – and comparisons to a playoff series are not that far-fetched.
After a Happy Hour game against the Capitals in Washington on Friday afternoon, the Canadiens come home to face the Leafs Saturday night. New Jersey is at the Bell Centre Monday. Then the Canadiens play in Newark on Wednesday before coming home to face … drum roll, please .. the Bruins on Thursday night. Buffalo is in Montreal for a saturday game on Dec. 7.
To the surprise of more than a few, the Canadiens have 30 points after 25 games. If the playoffs started Thursday, they’d be in as a wild-card – and they’re only four points behind Boston for the Atlantic Division lead.
The team is healthy. Rene Bourque, Francis Bouillon and George Parros were in the pressbox in Buffalo.
With our first significant snowfall, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Montreal.
Let’s join our American friends in giving thanks – for a country at peace and some pretty good hockey.
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As the concussion issue continues to simmer, did anyone enjoy the spectacle of 6’8″, 270-lb John Scott raining rights onto the helmet-less head of Douglas Murray?
The NHL has to get rid of fighting – a reform that will be easier once Rogers does us the immense favour of retiring Don Cherry.
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And in honour of U.S. Thanksgiving: