Montreal Canadiens’ Andrei Markov A Stabilizing Force On Defense

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Montreal Canadiens Andrei Markov defending in front of net in 4-1 win over Washington Capitals.  Geoff Burke – USA TODAY SPORTS

With three goals and four points in his first three games of the season, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov finds himself in a very unusual position, at the top of the Habs goal scoring stats.  Although it is highly unlikely Markov will be the Habs top scorer at season’s end, his fast start on the offensive side of the rink is just one more indication he is back to form.

Even though it is still early in the season, it is evident Montreal missed the experience and composure of the 34-year-old blueliner last season, when Markov missed 69 games due to a knee injury.  With Markov playing in Russia during the lockout, he came into this shortened NHL season with a bit of a head start on the players who were idle.  Markov’s stint in Russia was a necessity for his rehab and game conditioning, considering he had missed over two-thirds of his games over the past three seasons.

While defenseman P.K. Subban is embroiled in stalled contract negotiations and requesting to be paid what he is worth (or, more precisely, what he thinks he is worth), the return of Markov to game form has not come soon enough for the Habs.  Markov has not only filled the Subban void, he is providing negotiating leverage for the front office.

Can you imagine if Subban sits out the entire season and Markov leads the Canadiens to a playoff spot?  Certainly, this would throw a monkey wrench around Subban’s plans of holding out for a more favorable deal.  Undoubtedly, this would not be a best case scenario for Subban’s interests.

By not signing and playing with the team from game one, Subban already put himself behind the eight ball.  And now with Markov, the remainder of the Habs backline and goalie Carey Price off to a solid defensive start (allowing only four goals in three games), Subban is not really being missed too much.  Of course, this can change in a hurry with an injury here and there.

Although the Habs first three games have yet to feature an opponent which can be categorized as a serious cup contender, in no way does it diminish Montreal’s inspiring and disciplined play the last two games.  The league schedule maker did not do Subban any favors by giving the Habs a soft early schedule.

After this season, Markov has one season left on his contract and his future in Montreal past 2013-14 is uncertain.  There are obviously several factors at play, including the team’s rebuilding schedule, Markov’s recovery and most importantly his performance on the ice.

For now, the Habs could not ask for a better start from steady Andrei – much to the chagrin of Subban.

Twitter @HarrisDole

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