When looking at this year's success of the Montreal Canadiens most would chose G Carey Price as a perfect Conn Smythe candidate. The 20-year-old has the reminiscence of Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden written all over him.
But, playing in the shadows of this young superstar, lurks Alex Kovalev. Even as one of the top players in the NHL during the regular season he was typically overlooked. Below are the reasons why he deserves the Conn Smythe above all others:
Comeback: Kovalev is having not only a tremendous comeback this season but a career year. The 2006-07 season was one of his if not the worst of his career; his performance was sporadic, and he had made too many critical errors. Pressure was on coach Guy Carbonneau to trade Kovalev and hockey fans, including those of the Habs, thought he should retire. Try to imagine the team now if either Kovalev or Carbonneau had listened to the fans!
Leader: It's a sign of good things when an assistant- and co-captain gets promoted to the top line and top power-play unit. There is no surprise that he can be thanked as a major contribution to the Canadiens' number-one-ranked power-play. He was among the NHL leaders for power-play goals and points. And, since Saku Koivu went down to injury, Kovalev proudly wears the 'C' on his sweater. He shows the rookies how to be successful, most importantly now during the playoffs, and is as much of an idol to them as Koivu.
Speed: The 35-year-old Russian seems to speed up with age instead of slow down. Once he gets puck possession, especially behind the net, it is hard to take it away - he will either out-muscle you or make a move around you so quick that you're left standing there stunned (recall: the game against Boston when he split the defence, including Zdeno Chara, did a spin-a-rama, and scored).
Power: Thanks to his outstanding power-play numbers, everyone knows that Kovalev will shoot, and hard, from any available angle. Most of the time he is left open because everyone is preoccupied with blocking shots from the likes of Andrei Markov or Mark Streit. Even when Kovalev is closely under watch his wrist shots from the left circle is his main weapon. Often, nobody sees the puck from a Kovalev shot until it is already in the net. His point shots are just as dangerous.
So as you can see, Kovalev is the obvious Most Valuable Player of the Canadiens' club. Even if he is not chosen as the Conn Smythe winner, he definitely at least deserves a vote.
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