It was a rather disappointing night in Buffalo for the Montreal Canadiens. At even strength, they seemed to be the better team, and probably deserved to walk away with the two points. But the Sabres are seemingly unstoppable on the power play this year, and the Habs found themselves in the box more often than you’d like to see against such a threat.
There is an argument to be made that the officials made some soft calls, but they just couldn’t stay out of the box against a team that will absolutely make you pay for that. This, coupled with some defensive lapses, made it a tough night for the Tricolore.
Enter, Joel Armia.
He scored the team’s first two goals of the night — one on the power play, and one short handed — thanks to which his team had a shot going into the third period. You can argue that they were both “gimmes” so to speak, but when he got his opportunities, he cashed in. There’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, and for being able to finish when you’re there.
The shorthanded goal in particular was a reward for a very nice sequence by the Finn.
Joel Armia powers over Rasmus Dahlin, finishes off a pass from Nate Thompson for a shorthanded goal pic.twitter.com/apY13mn7OL— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 9, 2019
He also assisted on Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s goal to start the comeback and bring the Habs within one in the third. It was a sublime preparation of the play by Jonathan Drouin that got things started, but yet again Armia found himself in a position to make a play, and he made it perfectly.
Many, myself included, have argued that Armia should not be on the Habs’ power play. But, if he can cash in consistently on opportunities around the net like he did last night, it will get increasingly harder to make that argument.
He is in many ways the perfect bottom-six player. He is strong defensively, well positioned, very good on the penalty kill, and can contribute at the offensive end when given the opportunity. Even if he does get pulled from the power play unit, he proved last night he has the tools to get things done, even when shorthanded.
That being said, the Habs were extraordinarily bad with the man advantage last year, so they’ll take whatever they can get on that front. The opportunism and finish — pun intended — that he showed around the net has to make you wonder if he does actually belong there.
It is only one game, but impossible to argue that the Habs would have left Buffalo with a point last night last night without the effort of Joel Armia.
If they can get more games like that out of him, it is an excellent sign.