With home-team names such as Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Mike Komisarek, Andrei Markov, and Carey Price all on the 2009 NHL All-Star Game ballot this season, you'd have to think that at least one of them will start, right?
After starting in his first All-Star Game, Andrei Markov is a sure bet to be one of the top two this time around again. But can his partner in crime on the blueline, Mike Komisarek, follow Markov's footsteps?
In the past two seasons, Komisarek has made a name for himself. During the 2007-08 campaign, Komisarek was a league leader in hits—behind only Kings forward Dustin Brown—with 266 and also the league leader in blocked shots with 227.
His presence in his own zone is as intimidating as his punishing body checks. Unlike past Canadiens defenders over 6'2", such as Sheldon Souray or Vladimir Malakhov, Komisarek is responsible in his own end, and rarely gets beaten in a corner battle for the puck.
The same could sometimes be said for Andrei Markov. Although Markov's offensive output is a plus in the Canadiens lineup, he sometimes lacks in the defensive department. His defensive weaknesses, and inconsistencies at times, were put on full display last spring in the Eastern Conference semifinals versus the Philadelphia Flyers. Yet, suffice to say, he was injured.
Markov's 58 points last season was good enough for sixth among defensemen, second on the Canadiens to the now-departed Mark Streit (62 points).
Another All-Star veteran, Alex Kovalev, is on the ballot—and for good reason. Already having participated in both the 2001 and 2003 All-Star Games, Kovalev experienced a resurgence last season, from streaky scorer to consistent playmaker.
So far this season, Kovalev has done his share of the work up front. But with the acquisition of Alex Tanguay from Calgary, Kovalev's role in the scoring department may be a little less coming into the 2008-09 campaign. Still, that shouldn't be any reason for Kovalev not to get back up to 80-plus points this season.
Alex Tanguay is known for his scoring touch and his ability to make plays happen in the clutch. Already having garnered a Stanley Cup ring, Tanguay brings that invaluable experience to his hometown team, hoping to re-charge his career after a dismal 2007-08 campaign under Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan.
Bothered by rumours all through last campaign of a deal to Montreal, Tanguay couldn't find his scoring touch, after having a career year with over 80 points during the 2006-07 season. Already showing strides in Montreal, Tanguay is leading the Canadiens in points and having great success on a line with captain Saku Koivu.
Which leads us to yet another All-Star ballot vote for Saku Koivu. With the best start to a season in his career, Saku Koivu isn't slowing down in his contract year, but only speeding up. After controversy arose and his captaincy was brought into question, Koivu is responding in the early going of the 2008-09 season to critics who say he might be on his way out of Montreal.
Koivu, whose career with the Habs started at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, is synonymous with Montreal, where he's battled back from cancer and become the first European-born captain of Les Canadiens in team history. Koivu's leadership and the aura he possesses from all he's done during his 15-year career make him an invaluable piece in the Montreal arsenal.
Last, but not least in anyone's book, is sophomore netminder Carey Price. All biases aside, this kid can flat-out play hockey—and he's only going to get better. With rumours already circulating about a possible start for Price in the All-Star Game when it is being hosted by the Montreal Canadiens, Price is rising to the challenge of why he should be the starter.
After a dismal showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 8, where he let in six goals, Price rebounded to record his fourth career shutout against the Ottawa Senators on Remembrance Day.
Price was ridiculed last spring, largely for his inconsistent play in the playoffs. His mistakes against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals were only magnified due to the fact that Price was a rookie, and the Canadiens had all their hopes and dreams set on him.
Perhaps the critics were a little too eager and jumped the gun on this kid. After a restful summer, Price is back in action—leaner, fitter, and quicker in net. Even without voting for himself, Price should get a majority of the votes for the upcoming All-Star Game.
With six names on the ballot, the Canadiens could have an entire starting lineup on the Bell Centre ice come All-Star Game time. Not likely—but don't count any of these players out to be on the ice at any time during the 2009 All-Star Game.
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