AK-27 takes flight

Saturday, 17.11.2007 / 11:55 PM / News
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AK-27 takes flight
Not since Martin Rucinsky in 1996-97 has a Habs player reached the 10-goal mark as quickly as Alex Kovalev has this season.
MONTREAL – This just in: Alex Kovalev is back. On pace for his most productive season in years, Kovalev is once again terrorizing goalies the way only he can.

With 10 goals already through 19 games this season, Kovalev has reached the mark faster than any Canadiens player in over a decade. Not since Martin Rucinsky scored his 10th goal in game No. 20 back in 1996-97 has a Hab flown out of the blocks the way Kovalev has so far in 2007-08. 

The 34-year-old’s hot start has also allowed Kovalev to put a disappointing 2006-07 campaign behind him in a hurry.

“I’m feeling really good right now, that’s for sure, but not only because the puck is in going in for me,” said Kovalev, who needed 39 games to score his 10th goal last season. “Last year was hard on me and I had a long summer to think about it. I knew I had to change my approach and my attitude this season and that’s what I’ve done.

“I look to make a difference every game this season, and not just by getting points and scoring goals,” added Kovalev. "I’m using my body to make things happen any way I can and so far it’s working.”

That’s putting it mildly. If Kovalev continues at his breakneck pace, the Russian winger will crack the 40-goal mark for the second time in his 16-year NHL career, after scoring only 18 times a year ago. The last time he did was in 2000-01 with the Penguins when he exploded for 44 goals on his way to his first All-Star Game appearance.

While happy to downplay his scorching start to the season, Kovalev did prove he was a stats geek a heart by tracking down an official after scoring his power-play goal late in the third period.

 “I knew I needed one more power-play goal to reach 100 and I wanted it to happen tonight,” admitted Kovalev, the game’s first star. 

That milestone goal hardly came easily to Kovalev, who was the victim of some good old fashioned head-hunting by Zdeno Chara to set the stage. After having his bell rung, Kovalev not only remained on the ice for the resulting man advantage, but also made his wish come true by flipping the puck past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas with just over five minutes to go in the game. 

“I definitely could’ve done without that elbow from Chara,” said Kovalev with a smirk, “but it got us that power play, got me my goal and got us the win, so I’m a happy guy tonight.”

So far in 2007-08, Kovalev has been all smiles on most nights. The same can’t be said for opposing goalies, however.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.