Like a fine wine
|With his next assist, Alex Kovalev will become the fourth Russian-born player to reach the 500 mark in his career.
Kovalev celebrated his 35th birthday back on Feb. 24. With the minutes he’s logging on the ice, the most of any Habs forward with an average of 19:24 per game, he likely didn’t need any help blowing out the candles.
After a brilliant start to the season, Kovalev truly began to take flight after a well-deserved rest during the All-Star break. With the season in full crunch-time mode and the Eastern Conference race tighter than ever, the Russian winger hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
During All-Star weekend, the talented veteran ranked 38th in the league with 45 points in 49 games. Fast forward to March 4 and the standings show Kovalev’s rise to 16th among NHL scorers, thanks to eight goals and 16 assists in 18 games since the annual mid-season festivities. With 69 points in the bank so far, Kovalev, along with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson, is the only other player among the top 30 scorers born before the Watergate scandal.
In his 15th NHL season, Kovalev established a career first last Friday in Buffalo, notching four helpers in a single contest. That eclipsed his previous best of three in a game, a feat he had realized 14 times before. With another pair of assists in the last two games, the first Russian to ever be drafted in the first round is a step away from joining his countrymen in a select club: 500 career assists. Already boasting 499 in 1,058 career games, Kovalev will join the likes of Sergei Federov (664), Sergei Zubov (615) and Alexander Mogilny (559), who have all reached the milestone before him.
Will he one day pass the others? One thing's for sure, if the future is anything like the present, the best is yet to come.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com