Aside for the high-sticking penalty he took late in the third period yesterday, it was a great performance from Joel Armia. He didn’t record a point, but was instrumental in generating the game-winning goal with his intense forecheck.
Armia is all about solid habits. He is a consistent performer who provides sound defence due to his ability to read the game and position his stick in the right places to limit the opponent’s options. He is a hard worker who gives his coach exactly what he asks for in key situations, and sometimes even a little bit more.
He is also a good fit next to the young Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Armia’s ability along the boards, along with his big frame combined with his stickhandling ability, means that Kotkaniemi can often stay in open spaces in the offensive zone while his big brother works to shake the defence in tight spaces; something he is very good at.
It is hard to take the puck away from Armia. With the puck on his stick, and his back turned to his checkers, he deceives defencemen just enough to keep them guessing on what he will do next while being big enough that he isn’t vulnerable to pokechecks. He waits for defenders to get close enough, and as soon as they do, he pushes the puck to an open area, gets his body in front of them, and easily wins the race to the loose puck.
He has good hands, but is not an over-handler. He is content simply protecting the puck by keeping it in front of him, only showing his extra moves when he turns from the boards to attack the slot.
A lot of the elements that makes him effective were evident on the penalty kill in the second period of the game against the Arizona Coyotes. Not only did Armia’s efforts take away precious seconds from the clock, but also created a couple of scoring chances while his team was down a man.
The Finnish player is sometimes an unsung hero, but his impact on games can’t be underestimated, nor how valuable he is to the Habs.
Here is an analysis of some interesting sequences from Joel Armia against the Coyotes.