As a result, the first line has been great; and, perhaps more importantly, the powerplay fearsome again.
I tell you what, say what you want about Kovalev, but he wants to make the playoffs as much as anyone on that team. How can I be so sure? He's wearing it on his face:
People mocked Laraque for his speech the other day, and perhaps they were right to. But one can't ignore that certain players at least seem to have taken some of his advice. Certain players have begun playing like this is knockout hockey (precisely because that's what it is). Alexei is clearly one of that number.
Since his reinvigoration, the coach has clearly taken notice of Kovalev too – I suspect that might have something to do with locker room goings on as well – as he gave him the most ice time of any forward against Buffalo, a whopping 31 shifts. Notable too was that none of his 24 and a half minutes were frittered away on penalty kill.
If anything can be said for this and the union of Koivu, Kovalev and Tanguay by Gainey, it is that this is the first time that the coach has been focused on getting the best from those top players – damn the rest. Carbo, for his part, seemed to prefer finding better average play. Gainey is riding the highs and lows of the "eggs-in-one-basket" technique.
I, for one, like it.
As a bit of fun, I've found this old post which includes a bit about Kovalev's beard. One more thing Wyshinski and I agree on is that Kovalev must certainly care for the outcome if he's willing to indulge the superstition that makes him look like that:
"... Kovalev looks like a carnival worker. The stringy blond hair coupled with the brown scraps all over his face evinces thoughts of cabbage smell and a rigged ring toss..."