|The party line seems to be this: Alex Kovalev’s heart is really in Montreal and when he finishes his two-year stint in Ottawa, he’d like to return to his beloved Montreal and finish out his playing days with the Habs.The question is, do we really want Kovalev back? Do we really want to go through what we went through before and what the Senators are going through now – that is, which Alex Kovalev will show up on game night, the one who sets the world on fire, or the one who plays like he’s dead man skating.?
And so far in Ottawa, on most nights he’s been dead man skating..
And be forewarned, Ottawa fans. Your frustration has only just begun.
The following are excerpts from a piece written after the Habs game by Ottawa Citizen hockey writer Wayne Scanlon. It appears they’re not happy with Kovy in Ottawa.
Waiting for Alex to load up
Kovalev, the Man Who Won’t Shoot, and the Senators go 0-for-7 on the power play in a loss to the Canadiens. Canadiens 4, Senators 1
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Alex Kovalev takes his shots.
Usually from fans on the call-in shows, discouraged by what $5 million U.S. buys on the NHL free-agent market these days.
But shots in a game?
By Kovalev, hardly ever.
Kovalev and the Ottawa Senators came home to face the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night after a five-game road trip in which Kovalev’s shot production read like a horrible typo: Two.
Two! In more than 300 minutes of hockey.
Kovalev again lined up with Spezza and Nick Foligno, but there was nothing doing. After scoring against Anaheim with No. 27 at his side, Spezza was hopeful he might develop some chemistry with Kovalev if the line is more than a passing phase, so to speak.
“Having two guys that like the puck so much means the one guy is going to try to be open for the other and move the puck, and I think it’s nice to play give and go with a guy like that,” Spezza said. “So it has the potential to be a good fit for us.”
Not on this night, when the Senators relied on the Mike Fisher line and the checking lines to create pressure. In his first game against his ex-team, in Montreal, Kovalev had a two-point game, perhaps his best in an Ottawa uniform.
No such spark here, from a player with just four goals and 10 assists, distressing numbers even if fans here kept their expectations low for No. 27 at this late stage of an enigmatic career.
Someone asked head coach Cory Clouston if he occasionally talked to his big Russian winger about shooting more often.
“How about every game,” Clouston shot back to laughter from the media conference room.
Heading into the Montreal game, the Man Who Won’t Shoot had taken 33 shots on goal this season in 25 games played, or an average of 1.32 per game. That projects to 104 shots for the season. His season high was three shots, which countryman Alex Ovechkin can often match in a single shift.
He used to shoot more. Kovalev took 209 shots in 78 games last year and had 230 year before. When he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000-01, Kovalev hit his peak with 307 shots on goal. Not coincidentally, it was the only season in which he produced 40-plus goals (44), at least 50 assists (51) and the only season he exceeded 90 points (95).
Kovalev had two non-threatening shots on Halak after 40 minutes, which might suggest he was listening to his coach, though it’s perilous trying to read his mind.
By the time the Senators had wasted two power -play chances in the second period, Clouston had benched Kovalev from the unit — and Ottawa had four chances in all that period, failing to score on any of them.
Not that he’s anyone’s idea of a sniper, but Kovalev’s pre-game rank in shots was 356th in the league and 12th on his own team.
That’s right, Chris Neil, the team’s tough guy who’s been sidelined with a knee injury for more than a week, had taken more shots (36) than Kovalev. Defencemen Matt Carkner, Filip Kuba and Alex Picard had taken more shots. Ditto for Senators pest Jarkko Ruutu and winger Ryan Shannon, who has played five fewer games.
The loud contingent of Canadiens fans booed Kovalev whenever he touched the puck. Surely, frustrated Senators fans will soon join them, wondering when he’ll do something, anything, with his talent? After 26 games, Kovalev has four goals. He’s on pace for 13. The Senators have him under contract for next year, too.
Shoot, Alex, Shoot
NHL Shot Leaders
1. Parise Devils 125
2. Ovechkin Capitals 120
3. Carter Flyers 119
4. Nash Jackets 116
5. Zetterberg Wings 116
6. Brown Kings 108
7. Crosby Penguins 107
8. Perry Ducks 106
9. Vrbata Coyotes 105
10. Lecavalier Lightning 104
30. Fisher Senators 88
62. Michalek Senators 77
341. Carkner Senators 35
359. Kovalev Senators 33