There were some former Montreal Canadiens suited up in green and white on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, a night where the Canadiens earned a 4-2 victory over their opponents from the Lone Star state. None garnered more attention for his presence than forward Alex Radulov.
The Dallas Stars’ forward made an impression during his lone season in a Canadiens' uniform. So much so that he drew cheers at the beginning of the game when he was shown on the Bell Centre jumbotron.
From a fan's perspective, it wouldn't be fair to hate on Radulov. The forward said he loved "being in Montreal and playing in Montreal" shortly after signing a five-year, $31.25 million deal with the Dallas Stars this past off-season. Fans wanted the forward back, who scored 18 goals and 54 points during his lone year in Montreal. Instead, the Canadiens let him walk and didn't replace him. Yes, the Canadiens traded for Jonathan Drouin, but he isn't as rugged, physical, or has the same nose for the net that Radulov had. A Drouin-Radulov one-two punch would've been ideal and potentially could've had fans salivating. Heck, having Radulov back would've benefitted team captain Max Pacioretty.
Radulov wasn't a passenger in his return to the Bell Centre, playing alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin — you don't need us to tell you that they're superior linemates by comparison to who he was playing with in Montreal. He fought for pucks, and set up his teammates for scoring chances.
Radulov was eventually rewarded with an assist in the second period, finding Jamie Benn in the slot after receiving a beautiful pass from Devin Shore.
Salt in the wound, as Montreal goes on the penalty kill after Juulsen is boarded.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 14, 2018
Jamie Benn scores on a feed from Alex Radulov. pic.twitter.com/ssJHQgy4HD
Radulov finished the game with an assist, two shots on goal, two hits, two blocked shots, and was the second-most used forward by Stars’ coach Ken Hitchock at 22:56. Tyler Seguin saw just a bit more time at 22:57.
In a nightmare-like season for the Canadiens, where they find themselves out of the playoff picture and near the bottom of the league in goals for, seeing former players like Radulov succeed elsewhere is extremely painful to watch. He's already set a career-high in points with 60, and is one goal away from matching a career-high goals (26). He only trails line mate Tyler Seguin in goals on the Stars this season, 11 goals off his pace. Not to mention the Dallas Stars are currently in a playoff position.
And his new teammates, Benn and Seguin especially, really like him.
Tyler Seguin on Alex Radulov being the catalyst to his line's success vs. perception that he and Jamie Benn are the reason he's had such a great season: pic.twitter.com/I4raTmuoOM— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 13, 2018
His coach, Ken Hitchcock, also raved about him Tuesday morning.
Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock said he had his eye on Alex Radulov since the 2014 Olympics, when Canada's locker room was next to Russia's. Hitch says he was impressed with Radulov's compete level, enthusiasm, that older Russian players looked up to him.— Salim Nadim Valji (@salimvalji) March 13, 2018
Montreal Canadiens general manager once said that if you wanted loyalty, to buy a dog, when asked about contract negotiations with last summer with Radulov. It’d be fascinating to study the responses of Habs fans if they were asked to have a dog or Radulov on their team right now.