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|Markov's humour, price's talent shine
16 октября 2015 года. Stubbs, Dave. Montreal Gazette
It was a couple of seasons ago, late in the schedule, and the media horde around the Canadiens was growing with the bloated interest of newsrooms that don't cover sports.
A young reporter, unfamiliar with the players in the room, had been sent to ask about a rumour that had been making the rounds. So the kid went straight to veteran defenceman Andrei Markov and inquired.
Maybe not his best decision. Markov wordlessly studied the reporter in front of him, pursed his lips, rubbed his polished head and finally replied, "Who says this? What man? Bring him to me."
Markov's stern look, baritone voice and Russian accent completed the playful missile up the backside of the young man, who might still be rocketing out toward Saturn.
On Thursday night, introduced second-last to a tumultuous Bell Centre roar before the Canadiens' home opener, Markov skated briskly from the Zamboni entrance to centre ice. But instead of stopping to take the ceremonial torch held aloft by fellow rearguard P.K. Subban, Markov skated a full, lazy lap around Subban, pointing at him.
Punking him as the crowd roared louder.
Not to let any air out of this lovely balloon, but Subban knew it was coming.
"We decided to do that just before we went out there," Markov said with a grin following the Canadiens' 3-0 win over the New York Rangers Thursday night. "We just wanted to have some fun."
Had anyone else circled a lap of Subban like this, it would have been funny.
Being Markov, who so erroneously is thought by many to be a dour, humourless soul, it was hilarious.
Markov finally took the torch and Subban skated away to join his teammates at the blue line, dissolving into laughter.
That one moment in a typically excellent 20-minute home-opener ceremony nicely captured the dynamic of this Canadiens team. It's a loose, happy bunch that has bonded solidly in recent seasons, arriving at the Bell Centre against the New York Rangers with four wins, no losses, high hopes and great potential for 2015-16.
Anyone who expected a goalfest between these teams should have done their homework. Eight of the past nine games between the Canadiens and Rangers have ended in a shutout for one team or the other. Three of the last six have been 1-0 final scores, five of the most recent seven have decided by two or fewer goals.
But you can keep your 8-7 circuses, compared to this night of magnificent goaltending by the Canadiens' Carey Price and New York's Henrik Lundqvist.
Price made 25 saves in notching his seventh career shutout against the Rangers.
But if his play between the pipes was stupidly good, so was his bodychecking: Early in the third, Price flattened Rangers forward Chris Kreider behind the net as the latter circled, Price then standing over him for a long moment. If the goalie avoided an interference penalty, so too was he denied a hit, which would have looked great on the scoresheet.
(Kreider, of course, was the Ranger who wiped out Price with a suspect goalmouth collision during Game 1 of the Eastern finals two seasons ago, knocking the goalie out of Games 2-6 in that series.)
At the other end of the ice, Lundqvist, with 30 saves, was within one shot of being Price's equal until the final 2:05 when Dale Weise beat him five-hole. Tomas Plekanec cemented things by hitting an empty Rangers net with 37 seconds to play. Tomas Fleischmann had shown nice hands midway through the first period to open the scoring.
A nod here to veteran forward David Desharnais, who assisted on the Canadiens' first two goals and was a muscular giant on the half-wall to help set up Weise's insurance goal.
This would be a special evening, even before the Canadiens made franchise history by winning their fifth straight to open a season. There's always a nice buzz about opening night.
The pregame ceremony cemented two Canadiens cornerstones on the video board over centre ice: an unrivalled past, spoken to by legends Serge Savard, Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden and Yvan Cournoyer, and a terrific present that promises a great future, featuring Brendan Gallagher, Subban, Price and new captain Max Pacioretty.
All spoke to the weight, responsibility and honour of wearing the Canadiens jersey. Dramatic blackand-white, strongly shadowed images bled into bright colour, and to the pounding beat of Paul McCartney's Bond-film theme Live and Let Die, the modern Habs were shown filling the opponent's net, stoning their foe and thumping them into next week.
The evening unfolded to a display of wonderful hockey that at times was almost playoff intensity.
But don't let the Canadiens' 5-0 record fool you, said Markov, and this time he wasn't joking.
"You know what, guys? I think it's too early still," he said. "It's only five games. It's a long season and it's not going to be easy. The next game is going to be harder than the previous game. Everyone's going to play us hard." The fans will worry about that later. This team hasn't lost a game since last May, and that's plenty to brag about.