The unfortunate news of Saku Koivu’s injured left foot will be difficult to overcome during the playoffs but things must move forward. I was glad to hear Alex Kovalev step up and tell the media that the team must now raise their game to another level.
He also stated the obvious when he mentioned that it was a great opportunity for some of the younger players to show what they can do with more ice time……hello Mr. Grabovski!!!
Now the questions remains, how do you replace a player of Saku Koivu caliber heading into the playoffs if he can’t answer the bell? I guess to be realistic, you just don’t replace a Koivu but as acting captain Kovalev stated, it’s time to see what the remaining players can do in his absence……no excuses or crutch to lean on from here on in…..
Some might suggest Mikhail Grabovski could be the solution centering the second line. I still have serious doubts concerning Grabovski’s overall game especially when the playoffs get under way next week. I love Grabs skill set and great speed to the outside but with that being said, I’m not convinced his perimeter game or timidness in physical games will mess well with intense, physical playoff style hockey. The playoffs are a whole different kettle of fish with so much on the line……it truly separates the men from the boys!!
If Grabovski doesn’t fill part of the void left by Koivu, then why not consider moving Sergei Kostitsyn to the center position where he could utilize his great on ice vision and creativity with the puck. He has shown a solid two way game and can distribute the puck with great success. I haven’t heard if Sergei has played the center position throughout his young hockey career. It would be a different challenge with more defensive responsibilities (ie- defensive high slot containment. giving the defense a break out target up the middle…….) and the ever important face-offs duties but let’s face it, he couldn’t be any worst than Grabovski in the circle (in the last 5 games, he hasn’t been above the 30% success rate in 3 of those games). I also like how Sergei fights along the boards and doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game.
As Alex Kovalev told Le Journal and La Presse after today’s practice, “He can play anywhere. He will just need time to adjust because the center position requires a lot more work, especially on the defensive plan. I just hope he finds the energy needed.”
Bryan Smolinski is another option at Carbonneau’s disposal…..or should I say his chemistry set.
In the end, there aren’t too many concrete solutions for replacing Saku Koivu’s minutes, leadership and experience in the coming games, he is a hard commodity to replace. The Canadiens system is sorely lacking in offensive depth at the center position excluding a very talented young Ben Maxwell who is 2-3 years from attempting his NHL career.
If there was anytime to pull out a chemistry set, carefully start mixing chemicals and light up Bunsen burners, it’s now Dr. Carbo……it’s now!!!!……or at least until Saku Koivu is back.