Only a week ago, Senator's veteran forward Alexei Kovalev was being called out and criticized by the team's general manager, Bryan Murray for his slow start to the season.
"Not very good," Murray responded to questions of Kovalev's performance this season. "It looks like his skating isn't where it was last year. I think there's lingering effects maybe from the surgery he had. I'm hoping that's part of it and, as time goes on, he gets going."
And most thought the criticism was fair. Kovalev was signed last season to a two-year contract worth $10 million with hopes that he would be a goal-scorer, playmaker and the threat on the power play that the team needs.
Last season, he did little to live up to those hopes, scoring only 18 goals in 77 games (a measly four goals on the power play) and missing the playoffs completely with a torn ACL in his left knee.
At the time of Murray's criticism, Kovalev had played six games this season and had one lone assist and no goals to show for his lack of effort.
Team owner, Eugene Melnyk was kinder to Kovalev on a Toronto radio show last Monday, and perhaps a tad prophetic when he said, "He is an enigma but in a positive way. One day, he is just going to explode...I know there are criticisms that he doesn’t show up in games but we still have faith in the guy."
Off the ice, Kovalev responded to the comments diplomatically saying, "I'm working and trying to get better. It's not always working the way you want, but I'm going to just keep trying and things will start working."
On the ice, Kovalev responded by exploding with three goals and an assist in the last two games. In Tuesday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, he combined with defenceman Erik Karlsson to score nine seconds apart, breaking a 15-year-old franchise record for fastest two goals scored by one second.
In last night's game against the Florida Panthers, Kovalev scored a slick backhand goal in the third period to bring his total career NHL points up to 995. As he now inches toward the 1,000 career points landmark, one can't help but feel that the exploding Kovalev is here to stay for a while.
Yet if he does disappear off the score sheet again as he is prone to do, perhaps it will just be a matter of Murray and Melnyk taking to the airwaves once again to poke him back into action.
Christopher Smith runs senspedia.com, an Ottawa Senators wiki site.
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