Saturday night’s alright for a lot of things, but last Saturday was alright for Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Montreal Canadiens forward – he of the somewhat checkered past – scored the overtime winner and led his team to a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. The dub was vital for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it snapped an eight-game winless streak for the Habs and brought them back to something resembling a good feeling.
“It definitely feels good, it’s been a long time,” said Canadiens captain Shea Weber. “Now we’re going to have to keep it rolling, otherwise it can go back the other way.”
The 36-year-old Kovalchuk – he of the two-way contract worth a pittance of what he’d made previously in his career – popped home the winner past Marcus Hogberg and celebrated like a kid scoring a road hockey goal. It was a beautiful moment, a reminder of the purest elements of the game away from the noise.
Naturally, the noise is part of the game. It’s tough to talk Kovy without talking about the contract, as we’ve proven, and it’s hard not to fall into the trap of lowered if not entirely muted expectations regarding his run in Montreal.
And it’s easy snap back to Reality™ and remember that this win for the Habs is just a win and it doesn’t change the trajectory of this franchise right now.
Montreal was up against an Ottawa team that entered Saturday’s play four points behind them and with six straight losses of their own.
But if we can’t have nice things, what’s the point?
“It’s a great atmosphere in this locker room,” Kovalchuk said. “I said that from the first minute I came in. The guys (were) unbelievable (with me). They were warm to welcome me, so open, and I felt like I’ve been here for so much time (but) I’ve just been here for a week.”
Since arriving in Montreal, Kovalchuk has averaged about 20 minutes of ice time a game – give or take – and has had to step up in the absence of several key Canadiens. Ironically, before joining this club and when he was still working his way down the ladder in Los Angeles, his last game was against the Habs. He skated 14:14 and had three shots.
Since then, Kovalchuk has been bumped up about five minutes in ice time and he’s got 11 shots on goal across four games. He also has four points, including his first goal as a Canadien from Saturday. That’s just about half the points he accrued with the Kings in 17 games this season.
Now, nobody’s making the argument that Ilya Kovalchuk is a house of fire about to turn these Habs around and into a post-season contender. But it’s kind of nice, Internet logic notwithstanding, to have a good story to tell.
Photo credit: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire