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|Not your average 38-year-old: Andrei Markov still excels for Montreal Canadiens after all these years
27 ìàðòà 2017 ãîäà. National Post
Markov has not only played for Montreal during both of Claude Julien's stints as head coach. He did the same thing with Michel Therrien
MONTREAL — At age 38, Andrei Markov could have qualified to play in old-timers hockey tournaments three years ago.
But the Montreal Canadiens defenceman isn’t your average 38-year-old hockey player.
The Russian veteran of 16 NHL seasons, all with the Canadiens, showed it again Saturday night by scoring two goals — one on the power play — in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. Markov hadn’t scored in 15 games before getting two goals in less than five minutes during the second period, both on booming slapshots.
Markov has been around so long he has played during both of Claude Julien’s stints behind the Canadiens’ bench; he did the same thing with Michel Therrien. When Markov joined Montreal for the 2000-01 season after being drafted in the sixth round in 1998, Artturi Lehkonen was a five-year-old just learning how to play hockey in Finland. Now, they are teammates.
Markov added an assist Saturday on defence partner Shea Weber’s power-play goal. He has 6-29-35 totals in 56 games this season, along with a plus-12, while averaging 21:44 of ice time per game.
Markov insists he hasn’t changed his style of game because of age.
“I don’t want to change my game,” he said after the game in the Canadiens’ locker room. “I just have to stay in shape and continue to work hard. I know it’s not going to be easy … but I just play my game and try to help our team to win games.”
Julien said he hasn’t noticed any changes in Markov’s game, either, since his first stint as Canadiens coach, which ended when he was fired midway through 2005-06.
“He’s a real good pro, and I know you guys hear me say that a lot,” Julien said Saturday. “But what I mean by a good pro is he knows where he’s at in his career. He knows what he needs to do in order to stay on top of his game. Even on days off he’ll come in, whether it’s to get a workout or whether it’s to do whatever it is so that he’s ready to play. He knows his body well, he knows how to train, he knows how to prepare himself, and that’s why he’s been able to continue to excel at this age.
“He’s a good player, he’s a good example for a lot of those young guys on how to take care of yourself.”
One of the biggest changes Julien has made since taking over from Therrien on Valentine’s Day was to move Markov up to the top defence pair with Weber. That duo scored all three goals Saturday night, and the 31-year-old Weber logged a team-high 24:20 of ice time.
Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 32 shots, likes having the two veterans together in front of him.
“You got a big guy (Weber) in front and another guy (Markov) able to move the puck like that, it’s a recipe for not spending time in your zone,” the goaltender said.
“He’s just playing the game the way he’s always played it,” Price added about Markov. “He hasn’t really changed a whole lot. His passing ability speaks for itself and his vision speaks for itself. Nobody really talks about how great of a shot he’s got.”
Julien has asked Markov to shoot the puck more and it’s starting to pay off. Maybe the coach should tell his forwards the same thing, since they were shut out against the Senators. Weber (six) and Markov (three) combined for nine of the Canadiens’ 24 shots.
“They seem to be reading off each other very well,” Julien said. “Obviously, there’s some chemistry that’s being built there. Five-on-five, they’ve been good playing against top lines every night. The fact that they do a great job together, read off each other well on the power play … with the three goals coming from our back end, they were a pretty impressive duo tonight.”
Yes, they were.
Markov isn’t very talkative at the best of times — especially with reporters — but he is often seen speaking Russian in the locker room after practices with Alex Galchenyuk.
“I think people don’t realize how funny and talkative he actually is,” Galchenyuk said. “That’s his character. He comes in, he’s focused, but he’s an outgoing person.”
And Galchenyuk isn’t surprised Markov continues to defy his age.
“I see him work every day so hard in the gym,” Galchenyuk said. “The way he makes the plays, he’s so poised with the puck. In my opinion, he’s one of the top five, for sure, puck-moving defencemen in the league. It’s a treat to play with him.”
What, then, is the key to his longevity?
“I’m going to keep that a secret,” Markov said with a grin.