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Arber Xhekaj’s presence is sorely missed

The Montreal Canadiens confirmed yesterday that Arber Xhekaj will have surgery on his shoulder, effectively ending his rookie NHL season. His has been one of the best feel-good stories for the Habs in a tough season, and arguably one of the best stories in the entire league. He’s become a fan favourite in Montreal, and a

During their loss against the Ottawa Senators last night, Austin Watson took a pretty healthy run at Justin Barron right in front of the Habs’ bench. It made me wonder if he’d try such a thing, were the Sheriff still sitting on said bench.

Watson was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty on this play, which is fair, as I don’t think it warranted more from an official disciplinary standpoint. He’d eventually have a fight with Michael Pezzetta, but that was in response to a big hit landed by Pezzetta on Erik Brannstrom, not the run he took at Barron.

I feel that situations like that hit on Barron is where Xhekaj is missed the most. Whatever your opinion happens to be on fighting in hockey, there is no denying that the presence of a true heavyweight out there can make some players think twice about taking runs like that. He might not have to fight Watson, and just being there could evaporate the audacity it took to throw such a hit directly in front of the entire Habs roster.

Barron was luckily no worse for wear, so you may feel this is somewhat of a moot point. I’ll acquiesce that this particular hit isn’t the worst thing you can see, but it’s the fact that he felt safe doing it that bothers me more than the hit itself. I think he pulls up if the Sheriff is on the bench, and if he doesn’t, you know what would be waiting for him the moment he steps out of the box.

Xhekaj was injured as a result of going to bat for his teammates, so there is definitely an argument for him to try and do a little less fighting in the future. But again, sometimes simply being around is enough, because opposing players know what he can do when they step out of line.

I just hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, and we don’t see some games descend into lawlessness without the Sheriff around to keep a handle on things.

Bottom Six Minutes!

Tank nation should enjoy this episode, as I spend some time taking a look at the standings, and what needs to happen for the Habs to get their best lottery odds.

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