Andrei Markov Returns From Injury: What It Means For The Canadiens
Deprived of their best defenseman since the first game of the season, the Montreal Canadiens have experienced a roller coaster ride that has seen them fall to fourth in the Northeast division, only two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the process, the Canadiens' defense has been shaky. However, this is not due entirely to Markov's absence, as injuries have left their mark as well.
After sitting out for 11 weeks, Markov finally returns to a team that desperately needs him.
The return of Markov is a godsend for the Canadiens. Their breakout, which has been God-awful at times, will benefit greatly from his return. The power play as well should receive a significant boost.
He adds another dimension to the power play in the form of his excellent on-ice vision, as well as his booming shot from the point. The Canadiens' defensemen have had a hard time this season connecting cross-ice feeds to forwards, but that should change with Markov back in the lineup.
What must be kept in mind is that although Markov is returning ahead of his previously scheduled February return date, his presence alone will not immediately revive the ailing Habs, who have now dropped five games in a row.
Luckily for Markov, the Canadiens will face lesser teams like the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes for the rest of the month, which will allow him to ease his way back into the lineup, as opposed to facing the Washington Capitals or the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, he probably won't hit his full stride until a few games, as it would be a little too much to expect him to be dominant as soon as he returns.
One who might suffer from Markov's return might be Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Bergeron has seen heavy minutes since he was signed on October 6, and has been a mainstay on the power play, even playing forward on a few occasions.
While his power play minutes are unlikely to suffer, Bergeron's total ice time is sure to go down, especially since he hasn't done much to warrant those minutes. His ability to breakout of the defensive zone helped the Canadiens quite a bit on his arrival, but his defensive play has been shaky at best.
It should be interesting to see if Bergeron will be paired along with Markov on the power play, or if he will get moved down to the second unit.
Those who will benefit the most from Markov's return however, will be Jaroslav Spacek, Roman Hamrlik, and Josh Gorges.
All three blueliners have been eating up minutes, and are obviously weary and fatigued in the third period, especially since they play in all situations.
Unlike Bergeron, who has been so-so, all three defensemen have truly carried the load defensively. Spacek and Hamrlik are always matched up against the other team's top line, and have been able to shut down the likes of Alexander Ovechkin with their solid play.
Markov should be able to alleviate that burden, and the trio of defensemen should be fresher at the end of games, which will highly benefit the Canadiens as the season rolls along.
While it won't be perfect right away, Markov's imminent impact might be able to right the ship for the Canadiens.
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