The remarkable rebirth of Alex Kovalev

Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev has been brilliant this season, the anchor on the team’s first line with centreman Tomas Plekanec and fellow winger Andrei Kostitsyn.
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

A few short months ago, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think that Alex Kovalev had played his final game in a Canadiens uniform.

The 34-year-old Russian was coming off a tumultuous, sub-par season, one of just 18 goals and 47 points which saw him heckled by fans, shrouded by controversy, shredded by the media, demoted to the fourth line before being benched by coach Guy Carbonneau and, in his opinion, hung out to dry by the Montreal organization.

Now, 55 games into this season, Kovalev is the powerful locomotive pulling the Canadiens Express, the creative right-wing on one of the league’s premier lines with centreman Tomas Plekanec and left-wing Andrei Kostitsyn.

It’s been a long time since the 16-year NHL veteran has had this much fun, showcasing his prodigious, highlight-reel talent with a mature completeness of game that sees Carbonneau use him in every situation. And he’s on pace to enjoy a career season in a few statistical categories.

On Wednesday, Kovalev sat for nearly an hour with Habs Inside/Out and Montreal Gazette writer Dave Stubbs to talk about this season, last season, and the huge gulf between the two. Typically, he was engaging, bright and very candid about his perceptions of himself, his linemates, the Canadiens and his problems of last year.

Click above to listen to roughly 38 minutes of Stubbs’s Kovalev interview. Or, click on this link to download the file. Here is the Gazette feature that the interview produced, as well as a sidebar with Kovalev discussing his linemates and his long-ago developed puck-control prowess, and a roundup of a few quick-hit quotes from the Russian star.

And at, you’ll find two audio excerpts of the interview along with a slideshow featuring Kovalev on and off the ice. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.


  1. ZepFan2 says:

    StH is WAY overplayed.

  2. T-roy West says:

    My opinion is that Carbo will find the right combination for the Koivu line. Ryder might have scored thirty goals but he wasn’t doing much outside that. This year they asked him to be more defensively responsible and they have given Higgins, Koivu and Ryder lots of time this year and hat’s off to Carbonneau for being patient. At some point the coach needs to see results. Carbo, Jarvis, Muller and Gainey are not stupid. They see work ethic and who wants to go the extra mile to be better and I think they don’t see that in Ryder. They asked Kovalev to do the same and he is doing great and is on the plus side. To answer your questions I would say that Carbo will be happy with his lines when they start producing and are not a defensive liability. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. We need two scoring lines and the person that we get has to be a good fit for us. We need someone that can win battles along the boards and put a lot of pressure on the other teams defence physically and produce offensively. Will we get that person – who knows, but that is what we need. This team is improving in stages. Improving on one aspect of their game then moving on to the next. That is Carbo and Gainey’s style – being a complete player. I don’t think other teams players would think that Carbo is having trouble with line combinations so that would make them not want to come play here. I want a player that comes here to bent for the team and not the team bent for him.

  3. ZepFan2 says:


    “Glad they made the movie for those of us who were at that concert in body only.”

    I hear ya’!

    Now let’s see them roll into Montreal real soon.

    Go Habs Go!!

  4. Yeats says:

    Yep, his drum solo was the equivalent of using just one Zamboni to do the ice between periods. The rumour was that Page, Plant and Jones caught a movie and came back afterwards. Glad they made the movie for those of us who were at that concert in body only.

  5. Yeats says:

    That visit from Max Von Sydow in the off-season did the trick. “The power of Howie Morenz compels you, the power of The Rocket compels you, the power Beliveau compels you.” “Leave this player Satan!”

  6. ZepFan2 says:

    “The only thing I remember from that evening is that we all took a men’s room break during Moby Dick”


    I bet when you got back from the can, Bonzo was still banging away.

    Go Habs Go!!!

  7. Shiloh says:

    Good example – and trust me, I would love for Latendresse to become a much better player. I think you’re right about the need for a year in the AHL – he could get lots of ice time and really work on bringing his game to the next level.

  8. ZepFan2 says:

    Really too many to choose from.
    If pushed, I’d say it’s between When the Levee Breaks and The Lemon Song.


    *Go Habs Go!!

    *mandatory for a non-Hab post.:)

  9. Yeats says:

    Was at Madison Square Garden the night they shot the movie “The Song Remains the Same.” The only thing I remember from that evening is that we all took a men’s room break during Moby Dick.

  10. showey47 says:

    I can give you a pretty good example. When glen murray played junior hockey for the sudbury wolves, he was a terrible skater he looked like he was skating on his ankles. But he was big, strong and could score goals. I think the difference being glen went to the ahl for one season to develop his game, like gui should. But nonetheles, glen had a very good career and a powerforward and goal scorer. But at the same time gui leads this team in even strength goals so its hard to justify sending him to the minors.

  11. sag says:

    I know one is supposed to mind their own business…but Zeppelin is too great to ignore! The habs of rock and roll if you will. IMHO…
    Going to California, Immigrant Song, Good Times Bad Times, When The Levee Breaks, Kashmir, are all among the best. Boogie With Stu has to be my all time favourite though!

    Tonight the habs better bring their best because the Sens will be happy to be playing together again. Go habs go!

  12. N.B.habs fan says:

    T-roy….I have been reading yours and Con 12. comments on getting the great foward and I to would like to have that happen,but do you think mabe if we did get someone and had a problem like we have with the Koivu line and he dosent score every time he is on the ice he may be added to this line changing problem we have that they dont see that and dont want no part of in . When do you think Carbo will be happy with his lines .I think most of the NHL player see that and dont want no part of it .What is your take on this.

  13. Shiloh says:

    Lats is not up and coming, but he is young. Can you give me any examples of athletes who got faster as they aged? If he does a year or so in the minors and develops a nasty streak then he might at some point be a third-line winger – and that’s his upside.

  14. T-roy West says:

    Good points. My point was hindsight is 20/20. I don’t blame anyone for feeling the way they did about Kovalev last year.

  15. N.B.habs fan says:

    mjames ..I like your attitude and we know that Bob knows that we have a contender team for the cup in 2 years.I will be happy that we make it through the first round in the playoff ,better than last year and If we do go futher in the playoffs it will be better for the next year ,the young guys will have some playoff experience.
    It would be nice to have what most want on here ,but it isnt going to happen ,not this year so go with the team we have and have fun playing instead of having problems in the dressing room like TO and OTT.
    Our future is from within the club.

  16. Yeats says:

    One of the hallmarks of a perfectly competitive market is ease of entry. There was just no way you could hold on to a monopoly when it comes to horseS#!T on HIO. You’d have to buy out too many posters to keep that lofty status. I do applaud any efforts to try though.

  17. habsguy says:

    thanks showey…

  18. mjames says:

    I am also a “build through the draft” proponent. These rentals never work. Ask Nashville and Atlanta. We learned our lesson with Hainsey and Riberio. Lets work with what we have . A lot of fans on this sight, including myself sometimes, suffer from ADD.

    I just hope Gainey does not pull a rental trade where we give up the future. (ie. Houssa – Higgins, O’Bryne, Prospect plus a first rounder – that is just plain dumb).


  19. showey47 says:

    both smolinski and breezer contracts expire this year, looking forward to having chipper centering our 3rd or 4th line and obyrne, and maybe valentenko patrolling the defence.

  20. habsguy says:

    Zep fan , whats your favorite Zep song ???

  21. habsguy says:

    N.B…I agree that he should leave them together and hope they start to click again, and to further your point about the young guns on the team..Just think about next year or the year after with the addition by subtraction. I don’t pretend to know the length of these guys contracts, but say Brisbois is done this year, O’Byrne is ready to step in, same with Chipchurra. I see nothing but an awesome future for us as long as they don’t trade the future for now !!!

  22. Velavok says:

    Thanks for the feature. Kovalev is such a pure talent and a joy to watch. He is always creating. Go kovy

  23. Hot_Pie says:

    Kovalev is awesome. Regardless of his perceived performances in the past, I hardly think anyone can refute the fact that he has emerged as a true leader of this team this season.

  24. ZepFan2 says:

    “Isn’t Kovalev the same guy who most of you wanted to dump lastyear…”

    No, that was Alex’s evil twin brother last year (the one with lesser skills). This is the real Kovalev! 🙂

  25. ZepFan2 says:


    I’d add another name to your list, Alexander Ovechkin.

  26. ZepFan2 says:

    “Timmons and Gainey need to start looking for the next Claude Lemieux type player”

    As long as it’s just for the playoffs.
    Lemieux has always been laid back during the season, but come playoff time…look out!

  27. N.B.habs fan says:

    Habsguy.great post Iam very happy with this years team and just imagine when the young guys are clicking.Our biggest problem is this line changing,if we lose a game Cargo changes the line,he needs to leave Ryder,Higgens and Koivu together and leave them there no matter if they score or not.They will start scoring again when they know they wont get sent to the 4th line if the dont score in every game.If everyone that was supose to score every time they were on the ice then we would have game like football scores.

  28. habsguy says:

    T-roy…I thought I did make a point !!!!!…And trust me when I say, I don’t come on here with the intent of disagreeing with most of what is said…Ok here goes…
    If we would have gotten rid of Kovalev like most of us (inluding me) wanted to, he would be plying his trade elswhere, same as Ribero or Hainsey, I could Claude Lemieux but there wouldn’t be a point to it.
    Anyway hab fans are sooo fickel, I HATE the “what have you done lately attitude”..It’s SOOOOOO Leafs.
    If say Koivu were traded somewhere and found his groove with new linemates, I could just hear everyone calling for Gaineys head. Lats is an up and coming young guy, 20 yearsold, samething, if he were shipped somewhere else and learned the game and what it would take for him to be a solid allround player, ” and trust me, he’s going to be a force in the league” the posters here would go nuts.
    Yes I would love to have the big tough goal scoring center, but we don’t, and other GM’s just aren’t going to ” give them to us for nothing “..I don’t want to give away what looks to be a future winner with the win now leaf attitude…And if Carbo is SOOOO bad, and the team team sucks sooooo bad that 1/2 of them should be traded away or sent down plus we only have one scoring line, why are fighting for first place, something doesn’t make sense..I guess thats my point !!!!

  29. 24 Cups says:

    Y – I’m dead set against trading for Hossa as a rental but if he’s available as a potential signed player for say five years then I think we have to seriously consider him and the price that we will have to pay. He has been an elite player for years now and certainly has to be a better UFA than Briere, Gomez, or Drury.

    He has been very consistent point wise and is in the top five producers over the past four years. He also has been a plus player every year. He’s very strong on the puck and is very well suited to the new NHL style of play. He would make our lethal PP even better. I don’t think he plays that small as he rarely gets knocked off his feet. You know, it’s funny, we refer to Andrei K and Higgins as ‘power forwards’ yet they both are around 6′ and 205 lbs. That’s no larger than Hossa and truth be known neither one of strikes me as a power forward at this point in time. Not in the true sense of the word.

    Playoffs? That’s a tough call. You can say he did nothing in Ottawa but that was true for the whole team. No one was more guilty of that tag than Alfredsson and they made him captain and gave him a long term contract. There’s no doubt that Atlanta laid down and died in the playoffs last year against the Rangers. But so did Tkachuk, Zhitnik, and Kovalchuk. It may be a concern but sometimes players change their ways in a new environment. I remember when Kovalev first came to Montreal. He did nothing when he first came here. And then in the playoffs he really turned it on and played with a lot of heart and determination.

    We are going to be short a right winger next year with Ryder gone and we don’t really have any high end prospects at that position in the system. Kovalev will soon be in his mid 30’s. Hossa would be a great fit for us but he will cost at least $8 mil a year. I guess another question would be is how would the other guys on the team feel about him walking in and taking that kind of money. The other option to Hossa would be to go out and get two players that both make around $4 mil each. They would be solid players and fill the holes up front that we need to address.

    The Original 24 Cups

  30. Moey says:

    Agreed, I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    Unfortunately, power out muscles finesse. Just look at the Sens last year in the finals. They play very pretty hockey, but when they’re knocked off their game, forget it. I see the Habs going down the same road. The Rangers game last week was a good example.

    Off topic, but I was reading the exchanges between yourself and KJdavid last night about all the horse poo that gets posted, I’m gutted, I thought I was the only purveyor of fine horsesh*t here.

  31. Yeats says:

    I’m in that camp as well. You need some players that other teams just hate to play against to be successful in the playoffs. We could use a little more sand paper and a little less finesse on this team.

  32. habsguy says:

    cournoyer12 …I FINALLY agree with something you posted, we DO need a Claude Lemieux type player. Think back to all the great teams we’ve had over the years and those teams had someone like Claude Lemieux, Mario Trembley, Chris Nilan, Mike McPhee, Brian Skrudland…It’s too bad Steve Begin couldn’t score more, he would fit the bill.

  33. T-roy West says:

    No, Kovalev isn’t the same guy as last year. You have a point to make?

  34. ColoradoHab says:

    Great post!!

  35. habsguy says:

    90% of you guys have short memories. Isn’t Kovalev the same guy who most of you wanted to dump lastyear…

  36. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    GREAT INTERVIEW WITH OUR STAR, “the complete player!”…thanks Dave.

    listen to the start of the interview – Kovalev comments about playing with the same players over and over how it allows the linemates to develope a system and chemistry. He goes on to say that by shuffling the lines constantly it is very difficult to get things going

    He basically spells out OUR PROBLEM with finding another scoring line!!!!!!..


    changing lineup during the game should be a rarity…not COMMON practice.

    He continues and repeats that when the opposition goes up against a line that been playing together (ie;alfr/heat/spez) the line has an advantage because the opponent knows they are going up against a SYSTEM…they know where each other is ALL THE TIME….sound familiar (ieKovyline).

    1. Thank GOD we have Alex Kovalev… his PRIME
    2. The BELL CENTRE should be rebuilt to sit 80,000 fans
    3. Your’re not a Hab fan till you watch & UNDERSTAND “The Rocket”
    4. We will win the CUP in 2009

  37. Will Longlade says:

    So true. No heart and no grit.

  38. Will Longlade says:

    Refer to the following Bob McKenzie column on the TSN site, “No Truth to Canadiens Thrashers Rumours”:

    The Hockey Buzz (Eklund) site simply isn’t credible. The more traffic he generates to his site, the more money he makes. A slight conflict of interest for someone in the rumour business.

    I agree with you 100%. I wouldn’t even trade Higgins even up for Hossa. It’s a terrible deal for the Habs for any number of reasons.

  39. anotherhab says:

    Enjoyed the article/interview Stubbs, and also couldn’t help but think that Ryder and Koivu could use a stroll on the waterfront with BG!!!.
    With all the Hossa trade noise circulating I hope Higgins remains a hab, a favorite of mine, needs and deserves to have good linemates. I would put him back with Ryder and Koivu and keep them together for several games.
    Can’t wait for todays tilt with the SENS sounds like Alfie will be back. We should win because our goaltending will make the difference. Also hope Hammer is back!
    GO HABS GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. G-Man says:

    To Mr. Stubbs,

    Wonderful in-depth interview with the best player the Habs have right now. Last year, AK27 drove me crazy: all that talent, so little effort. This season, he’s made me eat crow from the start. Too bad more players can’t take a long walk with Gainey and get their attitude and fierce pride straightened out. What a team we’d have then!


  41. G-Man says:

    From one who has been eating a lot of crow this season, you are 100% right. Kovalev this season has reminded Habs fans what it was like to have talent. Not since The Flower have we seen it up close.


  42. P St. Pierre says:

    I’m looking forward to the Gazette feature as well as listening to the interview with Kovalev. He’s been such an exciting player this season for the Canadiens.

    It’s nice for younger fans like myself who never got to witness Guy Lafleur, to see Alex Kovalev trying crazy things and making insane passes with the puck. My dad hasn’t been excited about the Habs in a long time, he says he’s been waiting for them to finally get a player who brings him out of his seat. I’ve been standing up alot this season, I’d like it to continue, merci beaucoup.

  43. T-roy West says:

    I meant actually playing. He probably won’t be playing for a few games.

  44. Sulemaan says:

    Maybe I’ll see you there Twillingator.

  45. KerryPrice says:

    Leave Hossa in Atl. If were gonna get anyone get someone who at least can take a hit, make a hit. I never was a fan of Hossa or his little bro. I don`t like the sounds of any of these so called mumbo jumbo RDS Morrisette roid rage man is blabbering outta his pie hole. Don`t make a trade just to make a frickin trade. Bob not none of this Ribiero for Ninima crap again. Habs will win Saturday night. Umm 4-2. Dress Ryder for god sakes.He can`t score from le presse boxe.

  46. nightmare_49 says:

    He’s there already and was interviewed after the 1st period and sent his regards. Brett Engelhardt was interviewed after the 2nd period.

  47. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    Dave thanks for this thread (except the content posted below)

    Can’t wait to read and hear about the magician!!

    Kovy has breathed life into this organization…and the montreal fans appreciate it!

    1. Thank GOD we have Alex Kovalev… his PRIME
    2. The BELL CENTRE should be rebuilt to sit 80,000 fans
    3. Your’re not a Hab fan till you watch & UNDERSTAND “The Rocket”
    4. We will win the CUP in 2009

  48. Y says:

    What I meant is he plays small and it’s been documented that he is a playoff disappearing act

  49. Mike says:

    i know, every 3 minutes i keep switching from rds to habsinsideout to tsn to hockeybuzz. f*ck! lol

  50. habsgod says:


  51. fuhgawz says:

    good point ebk !!!!

  52. ebk says:

    Hossa is 6’1″ and 210, in what league is that small

  53. fuhgawz says:

    i know where you coming from but we need some pure goal scoring on this team Higgins and Ryder have not been doing it …. sometimes you have to spend money to make money or so the saying goes ….. i think Hossa can give us another powerful line with Saku and S.Kostit. — At least we know when Saku sets this guy up the puck is going in ….. we have hard workers all over the place on this team … we dont need more

  54. fuhgawz says:

    cant wait to hear this post on Kovy —– most talented player when on the puck in the NHL by far – He has been my fav. player since entering the NHL Happy for you Kovey KEEP IT ROCK’N BABY !!!! even TSN is getting on this band wagon this year .. i love it ….. can you imagine everyone if he played for the laffs they would be placing him in broze around the studio …..

    TO KOVEY !!!!!!

  55. Y says:

    I really hope not, sure Hossa is a great player but do we really need another smallish forward who won’t battle for the puck and muck it up? I for one would’ve sent Higgins + 1st rounder + some defensive prospect for Jokinen.

  56. fuhgawz says:

    So ……. is this Hossa for Higgins and a first rounder for real?????? …. costly ……. but … Hossa is an elite player in the NHL …. I think Higgins is a great player but i am wodering if he will ever develope “finish” … hard worker yes . talent yes ….. but can not match Hossa for talent ….. i say good trade if it is true. To bad they wouldnt have taken Ryder ….

  57. Y says:

    Nice job putting it in perspective.

  58. showey47 says:

    yup, usually i would be playing hockey tonight but i pulled a muscle in my back and i’ve been off work for a couple of weeks. But when ever i can i do listen to the dogs’, makes me wish i had never moved from hamilton. But since i was only 5 at the time, i really didn’t have any say in the matter

  59. T-roy West says:

    My wife thinks I’m nuts but she leaves me be,lol.

  60. Sulemaan says:

    Anyone here thinking about going to see the Bulldogs/Marlies game tomorrow in Toronto?

  61. T-roy West says:

    Brock Trotter will be joining the bulldogs soon. Things will be getting interesting there soon!

  62. CHsam says:

    i know eh lol!!!

  63. T-roy West says:

    Were diehard showey! Friday night and were listening to the bulldogs on the computer. Love it!

  64. T-roy West says:

    Now it’s 5-2 bulldogs!

  65. showey47 says:

    make that 5-2, locke is on fire again with 2 goals and a helper. He is playing wing instead of center, why not give him a shot on the koivu line as a winger since he seems to thrive there just like he did in last years calder cup playoffs

  66. T-roy West says:

    The bulldogs lead 4-2!

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