Monday, March 7, 2011

Showdown

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.

9 comments:

Leila said...

I certainly would not call up a player for the Bruin's game. Play the Hab's game and it could be close.

Teams are allowed four more AHL call-ups from the trade deadline until end of the playoffs. Would fans really want Henry sitting on the roster for the rest of the year and possibly be short a player or two at some point? That would hurt both the Habs/Bulldogs and the player.

I still feel for Ben Maxwell who was left on the roster last year for similar reasons. The team just couldn't afford to send him down and he might have helped the Bulldogs in their playoff run.

J.T. said...

Great point, Leila. Call up restrictions are yet another reason to leave the "toughness" in Hamilton for this one.

kyleroussel said...

In the heat of the moment of the "Boston Massacre" I thought for sure we'd see Henry in Montreal for the rematch. It didn't take me long to reverse that standpoint, however.

There's no way Henry would help. So what if he fought Shawn Thornton? So what *if* he managed to beat him to a pulp? What then? Who deals with Lucic? Who deals with McQuaid? Who deals with Chara? The answer is not Henry. The answer is nobody.

The Canadiens boast a terrific record against the Bruins over the past 2 years and they got sucked in to one night of stupidity. All the Canadiens need to do is play their game, hopefully grab a lead and make the Bruins chase them.

You're right, J.T. Many, many fans would sacrifice the 2 points tomorrow in exchange for seeing the Bruins sent home with bloodied noses. I sure as hell wouldn't. The Bruins are expecting to coast to the division win and closing the gap to 3 points would be making them a lot more uncomfortable than they'd like to be.

I'm also surprised that such a majority would vote to have some muscle added to the lineup.

Let's just hope the Canadiens win otherwise the blowback will be deafening.

Harry said...

J.T.,you are correct,nobody in Hamilton can make a difference in the fighting department.As much as I hate to admit it,the Broons have Thornton and Lucic and they have not lost too many fights.Even Laraque did not beat Thornton and Henry would not stand a chance.He might hold his own against Lucic but I'm not even sure of that.
We lost because of 8 goals-not because Pyatt and Spacek got punched out !!
There is nothing I would like more than to see Lucic get pounded but its not going to happen in Montreal any time soon.....
The way to really rub it in is to get back to winning against them as we so ofter have ..

Anonymous said...

next time give a heads up before you're on the radio, i'd have listened.

Anonymous said...

We dont have the toughness throughout the lineup to deal with everything the bruins can throw at us if they chose. We can lessen the problem by subbing Mara in for Weber and White in for Pyatt. Sopel is tougher than Spacek.

With Mara and Sopel in we have more toughness and size to deal with possible roughstuff. At least to the point where we wont be stomped and bloodied. White can hold his own and so can Moen and Pouliot.

A good wouldnt help much but a slight upgrade in a few players will make a difference.

mbplekfan
@mattmaniac

MC said...

I think Habs fans should take some solace in why the Bruins resorted to violent tactics. It is because they are so frustrated with the Habs because Montreal has owned the Bs. The Habs' team speed exploits the weaknesses of players like Chara and Boychuk. Even in the last game, the Habs kept coming back to make the game close. The reality is the Bruins are afraid of the Habs, not the other way around.

Dave said...

Is there audio or a podcast available somewhere? Would be cool to hear it.

J.T. said...

@Dave: I looked, but they don't seem to have much in the way of audio archiving on their site. I'll let you guys know next time I'm on.