I have made my opinion known when it comes to Ilya Kovalchuk, and how the Montreal Canadiens are probably best off to try and capitalize on his value before the trade deadline. But the case may be growing to keep him around, and that talk isn’t likely to die down after what he did on Tuesday night.
Because the old Russian came to play, and silenced the crowd against his old team in New Jersey.
The Devils jumped out to a three-goal lead, and the Habs relied on a variety of goal scorers to get back into the game. Even once they did, and took the lead, they almost fell victim yet again to their horrible results against bad teams. Despite scoring four straight goals to take that lead, they found themselves in a shootout.
Joel Armia stood out as arguably the best forward for the Habs on the night, but it was Kovalchuk who stole the show in that shootout. It is a facet of the game where someone of his skill level is bound to shine. He did exactly that, then made sure to hush the Prudential Center crowd that had been booing him all night for obvious pre-existing reasons.
Ilya Kovalchuk scores the shootout winner and silences the New Jersey crowd that booed him all night pic.twitter.com/7xwz1B03Ky— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 5, 2020
If the Habs are to take my advice and field calls about his availability, the price just went up yet again.
It wasn’t long ago that most pundits thought the Habs would be lucky to get a third-round pick out of him. Now, it’s hard to find anyone suggesting he’s worth any less than a second-rounder. Frankly, his play has brought the conversation to a point where it isn’t crazy to think that the Habs could be asking for a first.
Because he didn’t just show up for the shootout. He was one of the best skaters on the ice for the Habs at even-strength, with a 71.43% Corsi-for. They leaned on him for more five-on-five minutes than any other forward. He was very good, and even though he didn’t find the net outside of his shootout winner, he probably turned some heads with his overall game.
The Habs are going to get calls about him, and Marc Bergevin would be foolish to let those calls go to voicemail. That being said, he has a player who is suddenly electrifying again, so he’d be equally foolish to let that player go for anything less than top dollar. With the amount of fun that Kovalchuk is bringing, I’m almost tempted to switch camps and join those who want to see him play out the twilight of his career in Montreal.
Of course, the Tricolore needs to put together a serious winning streak if the talk of keeping him around is to gain any more legitimacy. He’s a lot of fun to watch, but if there’s no promise of the fun continuing beyond the regular season, I don’t see the merit in hanging on any longer than the trade deadline permits.
He may not be here for a long time, but he is certainly here for a good time.