USA TODAY Sports
The Canadiens have undeniably added a dimension of team toughness, although how much impact it has had on the turnaround is up for debate, but is it enough?
When Marc Bergevin signed noted middleweight pugilist Brandon Prust, rough and tumble Colby Armstrong, and way too strong for his size Francis Bouillon in the offseason, he gained an obscene amount of praise. As it stands so far, it would be tough to say any of those players hasn't worked out.
Francis Bouillon has been played above his talent level often, but that's not his fault, that's a coaching error. Colby Armstrong has been solid from the 4th line, and together with Ryan White and Travis Moen, they've been a tough minutes (zonally) sacrificial lamb that's tough to play against. Brandon Prust has been good pretty much everywhere the Habs have put him, and flat out excellent when put with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
The Habs are absolutely rolling with a 14-4-4 record, the second or third best possession numbers in the Eastern conference depending on which metric you value more, and they just beat their hated rivals and the top team in the east, the Boston Bruins.
So everything is going really well and the team is good to go, right? Well, not according to a certain sector of fans.
You see, even though the Canadiens beat the Bruins on Sunday night, they happened to lose two fights. Milan Lucic beat Brandon Prust, although neither guy really landed many shots, and Zdeno Chara ragdolled Alexei Emelin, but again, Emelin managed to dodge most of Chara's punches.
Neither fight was a beat down like Lucic on Mike Komisarek back in the day. But losing those fights bothered some Habs fans, and there are calls for the Habs to add a heavyweight fighter now.
I hate to say I called this, because it's really a little bit to predictable to brag about, but I wrote last year that even if the Canadiens added one fighter, even if they added two (White and Prust are both solid middleweights who can take out guys much bigger than themselves), it was never going to be enough for the fans who scream bloody murder against the Bruins.
What these people want, is a player that doesn't exist. Listening to TSN690 yesterday, I had a good laugh at one caller who requested that the Canadiens find someone who could beat the living crap out of Chara, and then state that this would change the rivalry forever.
I hear this refrain constantly. These Habs fans don't want just any heavyweight, they want a guy who never loses, to anyone, and this player does not exist. Not only does this player not exist, to value that kind of skill instead of hockey skill is exactly what the Bruins want.
Last season the Bruins psychologically destroyed the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres gutted their team, trading their best center for a 3rd line agitator, signing a useless giant in John Scott, and a team that could have possibly been good is now the worst team in the Northeast Division by a wide margin. This is what happens when you let a sideshow distract you from what is important in the game of hockey, and what is important is not fighting.
On Sunday night the Canadiens fought the Bruins twice. They held their own twice. They refused to back down. The Bruins lost better players to the penalties dolled out and the Canadiens won the game because of it. That is how you beat Boston.
What do you think happens if the Canadiens sign a John Scott clone to fight Zdeno Chara? I'll let you in on a secret, he won't fight. What you will get is the embarrassment that happened the night the Canadiens retired Patrick Roy's jersey, when Georges Laraque followed Lucic around the ice asking him to fight and getting ignored. Then Lucic scored to tie the game, which the Bruins won in a shootout.
The Bruins didn't get to be the top team in the East the last few years by being complete morons, they know when to pick battles for the most part. It's when they forget this that you've got them off their game, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday.
Food for thought: The Bruins record this with at least one fight is 7-2-1. The Bruins record without fighting this season is 7-1-1. Maybe they're just a good team? Nah, can't be.
But yeah, let's mess with what's working and add a joke of a hockey player to win a useless side show that has no effect on the outcome.