When Alexei Kovalev's On, So Are the Habs

Shawn McKimContributor IDecember 18, 2008

There is a strong belief that pertains to The Montreal Canadiens and star right winger Alexei Kovalev.

The theory is that if Kovalev's having fun—and albeit playing well—then the Canadiens are having fun- and winning. So far this season, Kovalev has not been having too much fun and he has not been playing to his potential, which by now is extremely high.

So far, in the '08-'09 NHL season, Kovalev has scored only seven goals and 17 assists totaling 24 points. His biggest struggle was in the month of December where he could not find the back of the net. He continued to score an average number of assists and Montreal's powerplay continued to dwindle. These two factors are positively correlated.

The last two seasons, Montreal was number one in the powerplay. A huge reason for their regular season and post-season success. In these two years, Kovalev had stellar seasons, scoring 35 goals in the '07-'08 season. 17 of those were powerplay goals.

This season Kovalev only has one powerplay goal. There are a couple of unfortunate, minor reasons for this goal scoring drought: Robert Lang and hitting the post.

In a game a couple of weeks ago against Atlanta, Montreal had a one goal lead and an empty net to shoot on. Kovalev, from the side of the net took a wrist shot that found its way in. It looked as if his goal scoring drought had finally ended. It turns out Robert Lang touched the puck and therefore was awarded the goal. The psychological drought that is carried with a slump continued.

Just the other night against Calgary, Markov took a slap shot from the blue line and Kovalev appeared to have tipped it in. The RDS announcer said right away, "that just relieved a gigantic gorilla off Kovalev's shoulders." They thought his goal scoring streak had finally ended. It turned out to be Markov's goal—Kovalev did not touch the puck.

Along with Kovalev's drought came the numerous cross bar and post shots that every goalie loves to hear, and every shooter loathes. Kovalev has hit quite a few this season. And with this series of unfortunate events Montreal only went 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.

However, Kovalev finally scored his 6th goal against Carolina on December 16 in a losing effort. The light at the end of the tunnel was visible finally. That monkey was released from his shoulders. Last night, at home to a thriving Flyers team, Kovalev notched his seventh, in a 5-2 victory at home. A much needed goal at home; a much needed win at home as well.

It seems that Montreal's success these last couple of seasons have been relying on Alex Kovalev's ability to score. When he's on, so are the Habs. When he's not on, it rubs off on the rest of the Montreal Canadiens and they cannot seem to score, especially on the powerplay.

Kovalev's two game goal scoring streak could be a new beginning, after an October and November of false starts.