The signing of Alexander Radulov caught many Habs fans off guard.
The offensively-minded, electric Radulov of years past was a joy to watch when his game was on, and midsummer reports this past offseason indicated his off-ice issues had subsided. Three games into the season, Radulov appears to be the player Bergevin has been looking for at bargain bin rates in years past.
Briere, Vanek, Semin, Parenteau - every one was brought in by Marc Bergevin to supplement an inconsistent offense. With the exception of Parenteau, every one failed.
Radulov appears - at least at these early stages - to be different.
That difference lies in the game that Radulov plays away from the puck, a strong 200-foot game that pressures the opposition and commands possession of the puck.
Don’t be fooled by a cursory glance at his stats line. One goal and an even rating through three games belies a 54.1% CF - good for first on the team. Of course, it’s a little early to focus on numbers, but the fact of the matter is the man pushes play in the right direction.
But had you played a word-association game with Montreal fans in the summer, the name Radulov might have brought forth a number of lukewarm responses - no doubt among them “risky,” “selfish” and “enigmatic.”
And while many expected the sorely stereotyped “enigmatic” player from overseas, Radulov appears to wear his game on his sleeve. Instead of echoing the failed experiment of those before him, Radulov’s strength and vision have recalled a European superstar of a different ilk - more Petr Forsberg than Alex Semin.
In the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Penguins, Radulov held his stick with one hand while a defender put pressure on him from behind. The winger’s immense strength was on display as he protected the puck and moved it to a teammate, a small play in a game that had Montreal holding a commanding lead.
But it’s precisely the type of responsible play that coach Therrien will love. The fact that Radulov preceded it with a spectacular goal will help.
The indications are that Radulov left KHL money on the table to become a Canadien, and to this point, his play has been inspired. Radulov’s intensity on the ice has been apparent.
Those expecting a pure sniper - as this writer was - shouldn’t be disappointed. In his post-game interview with Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskus, a game-weary Radulov looked like he might have just finished a UFC match.
Alex Radulov stars as the happiest man on earth. pic.twitter.com/eyTJQE7AMq— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 19, 2016
This Radulov is not purely a skilled scorer; he’s a power forward capable just as capable as running through an opponent as dangling around one.
For a Montreal team that has long sought a complementary scorer to Max Pacioretty, that is welcome news. Montreal wanted a Radulov, and Radulov wanted Montreal.
So far, it seems to be a perfect match.