Kovalev: My time in Montreal was magical

DON BRENNAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

When it comes to both the words and actions of one Alex Kovalev, it's often impossible not to use the word 'shoot.'

As he glides gracefully along the ice, Senators fans implore him to “shoot the puck, for crissakes” when they’re not turning to each other and asking, “shoot, did you see that move?” or “shoot, what the hell is he doing?”

And then are the rare occasions when Kovalev causes a “shoot, did he really say that?” The latest example of that occurred Monday in Montreal.

Kovalev, who had flown all night from California to promote his new video, was asked by a reporter what jersey he would wear if he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Never mind that, unlike the baseball ceremony where there’s a cap choice to be made, inductees into hockey’s shrine wear suits, not sweaters. AK27 had to produce a response.

“This is hypothetical,” said Kovalev, “but if it happened, I’d wear the Canadiens jersey. From the first day, from the first time I set foot on the ice, my time with the Canadiens and in Montreal was magical. The fans, the buzz in the city, I’ve never experienced anything like it. It would be the Canadiens jersey, that’s for sure.”

This wasn’t the first time since he signed a $10-million US, two-year contract with the Senators last summer that Kovalev had appeased the Montreal media while slighting some in Ottawa.

At his charity golf tournament not long after inking the deal, he expressed his desire to retire as a Hab, in the pullover he wore for four-plus seasons previously.

Whether he caught flak for it by someone who told him it’s not cool to speak lovingly of an ex-girlfriend when you’ve started a relationship with another, or he was still a little miffed about failing to make a difference in a loss to his former team the night before, Kovalev was clearly unhappy with the story that came out of a DVD-launching presser.

15 games without goal

“I don’t know, maybe I’m bad for the fans, but I don’t think that (talk) really should matter,” he said, sounding exasperated. “I have pride, and pride in the team I play for. We can talk about any teams, if you just take it in the right direction, if you take it in the right way. We could have said I want to retire in Russia, retire on the moon, you know, it doesn’t matter. Like I said, I have my own pride and it doesn’t matter.

"Sometimes we do say different things, but the meaning still stays the same. This is my team, this is the team I play for, and this is what I have to do to help this team be successful.

“(The Montreal media) keep asking me the same questions over and over again. You just get to the point ... it’s been so long already, since the season started, and they’re still trying to find out something. I don’t know what they’re trying to get out of it.”

So what about shooting the puck, you ask. Kovalev has gone 15 games without scoring. He has four goals on the season — one more than Chris Phillips and one fewer than Jarkko Ruutu. He’s regarded as a power-play specialist, one of the best, yet he hasn’t scored a power-play goal and the Senators rank 23rd in the all-important category.

Meanwhile, this is a guy who lit the lamp 35 times two seasons ago. Now, after 26 games as a Senator, he’s has just 35 shots on net to his credit. What’s the problem?

“Just shoot the puck,” coach Cory Clouston said when asked what he’d like to see Kovalev do. “He’s so skilled. He’s got to get more of a shooter mentality. In the past he has had that. The big thing is teams focus so much on him ... it kind of goes hand in hand, though. There’s not separation on a power play, for example. Our ‘D’ have to do a better job of gaining the middle for shot presence. That will open it up more for him.

"Right now, they’re squeezing him off so much. They can overplay that because our shot hasn’t been as much of a threat from the back end.”

Kovalev wasn’t using tiredness as an excuse for his unproductive performance against the Habs. He said the red-eye had him home at 5 or 6 a.m. Monday, and after a “rest” he went on to the press conference in Montreal.

“For me, it was better than for the guys,” he said of his teammates, who chartered home Monday. “Travel all day, then you have to play. I felt pretty good.”

Asked why he’s not shooting more, Kovalev revealed that he’s playing hurt.

“There’s sort of injuries that have been bothering me, but the last two or three games I’ve been better,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard. I don’t want to blame because I got hurt, it’s not a reason. If I’m playing, I’ve got to play the way I can. But sometimes certain things limit the things you do.”

How much does the goal-less drought bother you?

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Kovalev. “What bothers me the most is that we can’t put up the points. It’s a frustrating road trip when you only got three points.”

Kovalev has been “very good” in the room, captain Daniel Alfredsson said. But Senators fans who have taken to bashing AK27 just want him to be as good as he can on the ice.

Shoot, is that too much to ask?


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