What lies ahead for Habs' Kovalev after benching?
From hero to zero in one week.
Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev was the toast of Montreal last week when he scored two goals and added an assist en route to being named the MVP of the NHL All-Star Game at the Bell Centre.
"To be voted an all-star by the fans, … to be in the starting lineup, then named captain, then win the MVP, you can't ask for more than this. This is going to be something to remember for the rest of my life," Kovalev told CBC Sports after the Eastern Conference's 12-11 shootout victory.
Chances are Kovalev will also remember his performance in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the visiting Boston Bruins, albeit for completely different reasons.
The Russian forward felt coach Guy Carbonneau's wrath after he gave a lacklustre effort (including taking two penalties in the middle period) and was benched for the majority of the third, playing only three shifts (for a total of 1:47) in the frame.
Sunday was just another in a long line of recent sub-par outings for Kovalev, who has a measly seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last 14 games, his personal slide coinciding with Montreal's — the Habs have lost five of their last six contests to drop 18 point off the pace of the Northeast Division-leading Bruins.
Carbonneau said the Russian has to step up his game if Montreal has any hope of catching Boston.
"We're trying to get out of a situation that is not easy, and until we get 20 guys playing, it'll be tough," Carbonneau told reporters before adding that he plans to speak to Kovalev regarding his recent troubles.
"Alex is a professional. He's not a rookie," Carbonneau said. "Right now, he's struggling, but we need him [if we're going to] go far."
It's been suggested in the Montreal media that Kovalev's play tapers off when captain Saku Koivu is in the lineup. Koivu returned to action for the Habs on Jan. 21 after missing 17 games with an ankle injury, and Kovalev has struggled since then.
"I hope that's not the truth or we're in trouble, because I'm not taking the C off Saku — that's the bottom line," Carbonneau said. "If anyone needs a letter to perform on the ice, I have trouble with that."