Kovalev better off as an 'enigma'

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:12 AM ET

When he finally did have the gumption to emerge from two days of hiding in the restricted areas of the dressing room, Alex Kovalev had a lot to say.

In retrospect, he would have done himself a favour by staying in the showers.

Kovelev was better off as an "enigma" than the fool who spoke recklessly in front of his dressing room stall Friday morning.

In a fur-lined hooded jacket, he faced the media and pointed fingers of blame at all those who are trying to understand why he can be decent one game and so awful the next five. Near as we can figure, those fingers were aimed not only at coaches, reporters, fans and teammates in Ottawa, but everyone who has watched his NHL career and wonders the same thing.

If only Kovalev would have turned a thumb on himself, instead. If only he would have admitted what we all see. Surely he must realize what everyone else does, that he rarely gives anything close to a full effort.

But no, rather than take ownership of this one serious character flaw, he instead rambled on about his Christmas wish.

"Nothing is going wrong," he said when asked about his game. "I never make Christmas wishes, but I think at this point I wish people would stop picking my brain and just let me play the way I can. That's the only Christmas wish I can have right?"

Kovalev answered yes when asked if he thought he was being made a scapegoat by coach Cory Clouston.

"I just don't understand because sometimes when you start playing well, and everything goes well, they start brain-picking again. I don't know why it keeps happening and why they don't just let me play like I can. I don't know if it's some kind of jealousy or something else."

Jealousy? Seriously? Because he's talented? Daniel Alfredsson is talented, too, but nobody is accusing him of being a dog.

"Sometimes it's hard because you always find (yourself) as the goat to blame it on," said Kovalev. "Like I said, I'm used to it, it's been happening my whole career. I accept that."

It's happened his whole career because Kovalev has always been a guy who gives less than he gets. When Clouston stated so publicly earlier this week, the only surprise was that he had the audacity to say what other Kovalev coaches have been reluctant to say. Clouston repeated his thoughts on the subject Friday.

"He's not being picked on," said Clouston. "We want the consistency of effort."

Consistency of effort. That's it, that's all. It's not easy to deliver every night. Kovalev himself has admitted so.

There's a story of a few years ago when Kovalev, then a member of the Canadiens, played one game in particular with fire and determination. At one point, he ran right over Zdeno Chara, dumping the Boston defenceman on his can.

Kovalev was commended for the hit later, and asked why he didn't play like that more often.

"Are you kidding?" he supposedly replied.

Clouston would like Kovalev just fine if the $5 million winger would display even half the intensity he has in coaching the Senators. Because he doesn't, naturally he's going to incense the guy behind the bench.

If the two were ever to settle their differences in an alley or a gym, my money would be on the little pit bull to rip take a strip out of the big, lazy lab.

STARTS AND STOPS: There are a number of goalies who are weak on the glove side, but unlike Pascal Leclaire on Patrick Elias' goal in the second period, they can usually make the catch when the puck hits them right in the palm. Slowly but surely, the experts are being proven right. To paraphrase former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, the Senators goaltending "is what we thought it was" ... Lest we forget the Senators were 15-15-1 on December 10, 2006 - a season in which they wound up going to the Stanley Cup finals. Interestingly, fans were calling for the scalps of both Daniel Alfredsson and Bryan Murray back then ... Leclaire remembers the first time he stared down an NHL rink at Martin Brodeur. He was a rookie with the Columbus Blue Jackets, facing one of his boyhood idols. "I think we lost 2-1," Leclaire said Friday morning. "It was a pretty good game. I was not nervous, but excited. It was special for me. It's like anybody else when they line up for a faceoff against a Gretzky or something like that. You focus on other stuff but the first time was special, for sure."

BETWEEN PERIODS: To Matt Carkner, the fight with NHL heavy-weight champ Derek Boogaard Thursday is still a blur. He knows he got hit with a solid shot over the left eye, just as he's aware he caught Boogaard with a punch that broke the giant's nose. Carkner is vague on what happened immediately afterwards. "I don't know if you guys have been in many fights, but the adrenalin gets going and it goes by real quick," he said to reporters Friday morning. "He's definitely one of the toughest guys in the league and I was fortunate to get the upper hand in that one." The problem with accusations that Carkner "flicked" blood at Rangers players on the bench is that he said he didn't even know he was cut until he got back to the dressing room. "And it wasn't too bad," he said. "There was no stitches, and it was just kind of glued on there. I saw him bleeding, and obviously when you fight Boogaard and you seem him bleeding, it's an accomplishment. So that was pretty neat.

"When the adrenalin's rushing and you're skating off the ice, I'm lucky I didn't end up in their bench of something," added Carkner. "Sometimes you're seeing red. Me, it's funny how a little thing like that builds into some kind of media thing."

THE CAPTAIN'S BIRTHDAY: Alfredsson's plans for Saturday, his 38th birthday, will be to spend time with his family, including his father, Hasse, who has arrived from Sweden. "Hugo (Dan's son) has got a game at 3, then we're going to have a dinner somewhwere in Kanata," said Alfredsson. "Then we've got a 40 year old dinner for one of the parents on Hugo's hockey team."

What does he want for his birthday? Well, when asked the same question by a TV reporter last year, he said he needed socks.

"Someone saw the interview and sent me a box of 30 pairs of socks," he said. "They worked for a sock company. So I'm going to throw longjohns out there this year."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Struggling Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk was asked if he looked up to Kovalav, a fellow Russian, when he was a kid. "He's not that much older than me, but he was my roommate on the national team. He's a great guy," said Kovalchuk. "He's got unbelievable talent. Hopefully he's going to do well because he's a great man and he deserves it." But do you understand what people mean when they say he looks like he's not always trying? "But that's kind of his style of game," said Kovalchuk. "He's really skilled, he loves to put on a show and I think fans appreciate it. It's unfortunate he hasn't got many points, but he will. He will step up."

THINGS I THINK I THINK: I think I think you should have a sneaking suspicion that this was Game 7 for Cory Clouston. Win and he would advance with his career behind the Senators bench, or lose and be eliminated from the position altogether ...

C'MON MAN!: So let's get this straight ... Shean Donovan isn't good enough to make this Senators team? Really? Because from where we sit, the Senators would be better off not only with old "Chummy" in their room, but also on their fourth or even possibly third line.


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