Yesterday evening, I was a guest on CJAD's The Habs Show. It's always a fun gig because, hey, who doesn't like to talk about the Canadiens for twenty minutes with other people who like talking about them just as much as you do? One topic surprised me a bit, though. The host asked whether I thought the Canadiens should call up Alex Henry from Hamilton to toughen up the Habs' lineup for tomorrow's game against the Bruins.
I answered honestly: of course they shouldn't. I watched Henry yesterday, playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs versus the Toronto Marlies in an AHL game. He's a heart-and-soul kind of player; one who gives it his all in every game. He's tough as nails. He's not, however, better than any of the defencemen the Canadiens can ice instead. He's not better than Subban, Hamrlik or Wisniewski on offence. He's not as good a shotblocker or PKer as Gill or Sopel. And, while he's certainly willing to fight, so is Paul Mara, who'll probably draw in in Yannick Weber's place.
So, for the sake of the two minutes when Henry would fight a Bruin, you'd have to trade off ten or twelve minutes of very iffy defence against a Boston team that scored eight goals on Carey Price last time they met. A lot of those goals were scored off odd-man rushes and very suspect defensive coverage, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to make the D worse than it is now. Really, if the score is close toward the end of the game, who's Jacques the Knife going to have on the ice? Alex Henry or an over-worked Roman Hamrlik? He'll go with Hamrlik, who would have had to play more minutes as Henry got two shifts in the third. That's not a recipe for lead protection.
Apparently, though, the majority of fans who answered the CJAD question are in favour of calling Henry up for the game. I think that's probably spawned by a thirst for revenge and willingness to settle for a moral victory. In other words, the Habs might lose by reducing the quality of their D, but as long as the guys in the lineup kick some Bruin ass to save face after last game, who cares?
I think that's a misguided notion, though. If the Bruins' "toughness" is really in the Habs' heads, bringing in a ringer to fight one of them tomorrow isn't going to really solve the problem. Even if he fought and won, Henry isn't going to be on the playoff roster. The Canadiens are what they are as far as post-season participation goes, so they have to find solutions within their own lineup. If their answer to aggression is going to be team toughness...whether they get beaten up or not...then, that's got to come from the team they have.
That said, whatever happens tomorrow isn't likely to be indicative of what the teams can expect in the playoffs, should they meet. You don't often see five fights in a playoff game, and because teams live and die on special teams, they're much more circumspect about taking pointless penalties. The Canadiens need to focus more on shutting down the Bruins' offence and worry less about calling up a fighter to send a rather empty message.
So, no, I wouldn't call up anybody to fight the Bruins, and I'm kind of surprised that 99% of the fans who answered CJAD's poll question on the issue would.