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.
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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.