All-star Markov comes into his own

 

Andrei Markov is spare with his words, his economy of speech the reason some dressing-room visitors label him aloof or consider him invisible when he's at his stall.

 
 
 

Andrei Markov is spare with his words, his economy of speech the reason some dressing-room visitors label him aloof or consider him invisible when he's at his stall.

The Canadiens all-star defence-man won't disagree when it's suggested to him that he personifies a famous Russian proverb: "A man is judged by his deeds, not his words."

But Mike Komisarek, his regular blue-line partner, dressing-room neighbour and road-trip roommate, sees a different side of the superb Russian rearguard.

"Markie's actually a really funny, fun-loving guy, a great person once you get into his shell and get to know him," Komisarek said. "He just doesn't open himself up to too many people.

"His humour is something that very few will understand, whether it's in the room or on the bus. But in the last couple of years, he's gotten really comfortable learning the (English) language.

"And now, some of the comments he throws out there are just shocking."

Sadly, no elaboration is forthcoming.

There is no one on the Canadiens happier for Markov's election to his first all-star team, as a starter no less, than Komisarek. The two spend considerable time together on the road, and often will go for a sushi dinner the night before a game.

"Everybody knows about Markie's skills and world-class talent," Komisarek said. "He's really come into his own the past few years. It's a tremendous accomplishment and a completely deserved honour for him to be chosen an all-star."

Komisarek, 26, has had Markov as his defence partner for nearly 72 per cent of his own ice time this season; together, they're plus-9. So he's had a good, close look at a skill set that's increasingly admired around the league.

"There's a tremendous respect for what Markie does and the skills he brings," Komisarek said. "Sometimes you see him out there on the power play and the guys on the bench will just shake their heads in awe of the passes that he makes through sticks and skates, and at the seams he'll find to open guys."

The difference in playing style between Markov and Komisarek is more than a little reminiscent of the 1970s pairing of Hall of Famers Larry Robinson and Serge Savard, when Savard would fall back and mind the store on the occasions that Robinson chose to rush the puck or get involved deep.

"I think we're still not perfect," Markov jokes of his partnership with Komisarek. "But I like playing beside him. He's a good guy and a good player. I think we understand each other more and more."

Coincidentally, or not, Komi-sarek is enjoying a breakout year, having signed a two-year contract last summer. With 33 games to play, he's already equalled his NHL-best four goals, is three assists shy of last season's career-high 15, and is on pace to finish at a lifetime-best plus-15. Better, he's a punishing physical force every night who uses his size to full advantage.

"Markie's a guy who's going to take chances offensively, while I'm very simple most times, just trying to give it to him so he can make the plays," Komisarek said.

"I don't try to imitate him, because how he plays isn't my game. And I don't know if we're rubbing off on each other, but our games have really complemented each other.

He chuckled, then added: "I've seen Markie throw a couple of bodychecks this year, too, which has been pretty neat."

With 36 hits, Markov has thrown less than one-quarter of the 167 of his rugged partner.

Komisarek has witnessed Markov growing into his role and becoming more comfortable with it, on and off the ice. Both are demonstrating increased leadership this season, though Komisarek is the one more likely to make his opinions heard.

"Markie is not the guy who's going to step up and say something in the locker room," he said. "But his game speaks volumes about what he's thinking and where he wants to go.

"He takes pride in playing well with and without the puck, and he wants to win. He wants to be one of the pieces of winning the Stanley Cup in Montreal."

dstubbs@thegazette.canwest.com

 
 
 
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