Habs on mark, but lose Markov

Markov will have knee surgery next week and will miss the rest of the season, the Montreal...

Markov will have knee surgery next week and will miss the rest of the season, the Montreal Canadiens announced on Friday. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)

STEPHEN KNIGHT, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

TORONTO -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov must be wondering if he walked under a ladder while crossing the path of a black cat after hurling a rock at a mirror display.

Markov's season is likely done just seven games in after wrecking his right ACL in a 7-2 home win over Carolina on November 13th. He is scheduled to be operated on Wednesday in Birmingham, AL by Dr. James Andrews to repair meniscus and ligament damage.

If it weren't for horrible luck, the Russian veteran would have none.

Our last memory of Markov before this was him writhing in pain during the playoffs after injuring the same knee back on April 30th in a playoff game against Pittsburgh. He went on to miss 11 playoff games and the first 10 games of this season recovering from surgery.

And let's not forget that Markov began last season by missing 35 games following left ankle surgery the first week.

Despite the grim injury news for Markov, his team is doing just fine. The Canadiens are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games and sit atop the Northeast Division.

Rookie blueliners P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber are filling in admirably alongside veterans Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, Roman Hamrlik and Josh Gorges, with Alexandre Picard doing admirable spot duty.

The case for the defense is compelling so far. The Habs have allowed just 53 goals in 27 games, or just under two per game. Only the Boston Bruins have allowed fewer goals - 50 - but the Beantowners have played just 25 games.

In goal, now that Carey Price has made it through the crucible that is the Montreal media - fawningly building players up, only to viciously tear them down - he is shutting out the distractions (and his opponents) and just stopping pucks. It won't always be this way for the 23-year-old, but for now the fourth-year netminder leads the NHL in wins, with 16; is tied for second, with four shutouts; is third in save percentage, at .935, and is fourth in goals-against average, at a sparkling 1.96.

Because the Habs are winning, it has gone mostly unnoticed - well, except for in Montreal and the poolie community, that is - that the Canadiens' offensive big three of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri are quietly having underachieving seasons.

Gomez has nine points in 27 games. At $8 million per season, this is not good value for money. Gionta has 16 points in 27 games, but at $5 million this season, this is also underwhelming. Cammalleri has a respectable 18 points in 26 games, but also makes $5 million. Tomas Plekanec also makes $5 million a season, but is tied for the team lead in goals (nine), leads the team in assists (16) and points (25).

On the good side of the value ledger, veteran Mathieu Darche, for example, has 10 points in 21 games and pulls down just $500,000. This makes coaches and general managers and bean counters happy.

If Montreal's big guns can get untracked, the team may yet be in position to make another fun post-season run come April.


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