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Andrei Markov currently leads the Canadiens at plus-9. He's just one off the pace for best plus-minus in the NHL.
What a turnaround it has been.
In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Markov had a wonderful offensive season, posting 30 points in 48 games. Usually those kinds of numbers translate well into the plus-minus rating, especially for a defenseman. But Markov was a special case last season.
The veteran Russian, slowed by his three knee surgeries, was awful defensively and somehow managed to have a team-worst minus-9 by season's end.
To illustrate how bad that number really is, take this as an example: The second worst rating on the team was forward Jeff Halpern at minus-4. The second-worst regular defenseman was Andrei Emelin at plus-2.
The wonky knees and long layoff from surgeries definitely had a lot to do with Markov's defensive problems. Thankfully, he looks much more like his old self this season after having the summer to build strength and speed.
Markov isn't scoring at the same rate as he did last year, with just five points on the season. But he's been on the ice for a lot of goals scored. Playing with a partner who leads defensemen in scoring might have something to do with that.
He's also much-improved on the back end, and he has to be, as he's being relied on much more from a defensive point of view in 2013-14. Coach Therrien has him paired with the ultra-aggressive P.K. Subban, forcing Markov to play a little more conservatively while his partner takes the risks.
Markov has been challenged and he has responded with excellent defensive play so far this season. As long as he can stay on the ice, he's a safe bet to be among the team leaders in plus-minus this year. Expect him to finish second on the team in that category in 2013-14.