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Markov becomes new rocket man for Habs // Montreal Gazette
Published: Wednesday, October 08, 2008
MONTREAL - Andrei Markov loves the playmaker role but the veteran defenceman is being asked to shoot the puck more as he moves into a new role with the No. 1 power play in the National Hockey League. Markov moves from the left point to the right point and that's where the Montreal Canadiens look for the shot.
That's where Sheldon Souray launched his rockets two years ago. And that's where Mark Streit weaved his magic last season. With both players opting for free agency, Markov is being asked to fill the vacant spot.
"The philosophy isn't going to change," said Doug Jarvis, the assistant coach responsible for the power play. "It's always been about wanting to shoot the puck. We feel if we can establish a good shot from the blue-line, it's a benefit for us. We get the puck on net and that opens up opportunities down low."
What is changing is the personnel and the positions they play. Markov moves to the right while his spot on the left point will be filled by newcomer Alex Tanguay.
"It's a bit of a change for Andrei but he has a good strong one-time shot," said Jarvis. "There's going to be an adjustment period but he understands that he has to be a shooter."
The change means fans won't be seeing Markov make those cross-ice passes to Alex Kovalev as he moves in from the far boards but Jarvis feels that Tanguay has the skills to make similar plays.
"It will change in the sense that Andrei won't be making that pass," said Jarvis. "But I think a player like Alex Tanguay will be able to find that seam. When we're shooting the puck, those seams open up."
Markov said it's far too early to assess the changes on the power play but he doesn't appear overly concerned about the new role.
"I don't know how it will be but I always do my best," said Markov. "We know that we have to shoot if we want to score goals and if I have a chance, I will shoot."
As for moving to the right, Markov notes that a successful power play involves movement and he expects to find himself in his old neighbourhood on occasion.
"To be successful, I think we have five guys who are going to be moving in the zone," said Markov. "We have to move the puck and our feet. It's not about one guy. We have to stick together."
The Canadiens proved that last season. There were fears that the power play would suffer after Souray took his booming shot to Edmonton. But Streit stepped into the role and the Canadiens once again had the best record in the NHL.
Streit has since signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders and the Canadiens have another chance that the system can succeed with different parts.
"The system is important but you have to have talented players who believe in what they're doing," said Jarvis. "I think we have that."
Markov and Tanguay will be on the No. 1 unit with the Andrei Kostitsyn-Tomas Plekanec-Kovalev line and Jarvis aid they'll get the bulk of the minutes.
The second unit is in a state of flux because of injuries but look for Patrice Brisebois and Roman Hamrlik on the points with Saku Koivu, Robert Lang and Guillaume Latendresse down low. Lang is a plus because he has a right-handed shot while Jarvis believes that Latendresse has the ingredients to be successful on the power play.
"He has the size to block out the goaltender, he has strength and he has good hands if he gets a chance at a loose puck," said Jarvis.
The Canadiens will practise at Verdun prior to leaving for Buffalo for their season opener Friday night. They are in Toronto Saturday and Philadelphia Monday before returning home to face the Boston Bruins Wednesday at the Bell Centre.
Forwards Christopher Higgins and Georges Laraque and defenceman Francis Bouillon all skipped practice Wednesday and none of them are expected to play this weekend.