With Wednesday’s trade deadline now a thing of the past in the National Hockey League, where 38 players in total were swapped, a collective sigh of relief will be felt throughout the league by players that weren’t traded. The fact that Andrei Markov’s name is not included on that list came as a surprise to many, given that the veteran blueliner is on an expiring contract and may very well be in a different uniform come next season.
The moment on Wednesday night where Markov got on the ice for the potential game-winning shootout goal couldn’t have been scripted any better. A guy who had been the topic of fiery debate in Montreal, too old and too expensive, a perfect trade target, had the opportunity to validate his general manager’s decision not to trade him and at the same time silence the doubters.
Not exactly anyone’s prime candidate for the “Most Likely To Have A Flair For The Dramatic” senior superlative, Markov delivered in perhaps the most dramatic moment in hockey, firing a wrist shot that beat Jonas Hiller five hole to win the game. The Canadiens managed to defeat arguably the NHL’s best team, and a large part of that can be attributed to the unflappable Markov who logged over 25 minutes of ice time and managed a plus-1 rating.
After the game, Markov was his usual calm and witty self, expressing his surprise at being called upon by Michel Therrien in the shootout, “Yeah [I was little bit surprised], I just went in there, closed my eyes and shoot the puck.” Yet Therrien’s decision to use the defenseman was not at all out of the blue, as the Canadiens; head coach reminisced, “I remember one time in Pittsburgh [Markov] beat us in a similar situation and I couldn’t get over it, but this time I was just happy it was on our side.”
It was a wild night for the Canadiens in a back-and-forth affair against Anaheim, with heroics coming from rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski who managed 39 saves against one of the best offensive teams in the NHL. Yet in an alternate universe where Marc Bergevin trades Markov for a prospect and some draft picks, it would be hard to envision Montreal winning that Anaheim game, or even making the playoffs. By not trading him, Bergevin was basically telling Markov, “We really, really need you if we want to make the playoffs. And this is Montreal, we have to make the playoffs. So yeah, you’re not going anywhere.”
Trading away top-2 defenseman who plays almost half the game usually cripples a team for quite some time (Jay Bouwmeester leaving Calgary comes to mind), so there was no way that Bergevin was going to do that. The message is loud in clear in Montreal: it’s playoffs or bust once again, and on Wednesday night, Andrei Markov showed he got the message loud and clear.