Week 12 in One Word: Fight

January 14, 2022



a violent confrontation or struggle

Similar: brawl, altercation, struggle, wrestle, exchange blows, battle, contend, scrap

take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons.

After a two-week break in action due to the blows delivered by the omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Habs were on the road again for two games. On Wednesday, some recovered bodies were inserted back into the line-up, but they still lost 5-1 to the Boston Bruins. On Thursday, the opponent was the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a battle of bad teams where the Habs didn’t look worse than the opponent, but Chicago came out on top in a circus-like 3-2 overtime win.

Some old dogs were back in the fight on Tuesday in Boston.

From a health perspective, the break was good for the Habs. Several veterans had recovered from injuries and/or Omicron and returned to the line-up. Unfortunately, the NHL pros didn’t look many shades better than the replacement level guys we’ve been watching for a while. The lone Habs goal belonged to Pezzetta, and a near miss came from Dauphin.

The season may be lost, but it would be good to see those veterans put up a little more fight down the stretch. The kids are developing alongside them, and bad habits die hard once developed.

There are no such worries around Ben Chiarot. If anything, I’d prefer to see the big guy chill a little. There was a point in the Boston game when he showed a little frustration after taking a penalty and I recalled a fight and a broken hand. The Habs must get a solid return for this asset, and I’ll be a little antsy until it’s done.

A new dog was added to a fight that is already happening in a crowded ring.

On Wednesday the Habs claimed forward Rem Pitlick off waivers from the Minnesota Wild, and on Thursday he played his first game on a line with Dvorak and Drouin. Pitlick is a useful player with decent stats in Minnesota, and I liked the first look. He even saw some ice in overtime and performed well.

It was interesting to me that this claim was made at the point when players are finally returning to health and getting back in action. Pitlick will be fighting for ice time with Paquette, Vejdemo, Ylonen, Dauphin, and Pezzetta. Am I forgetting anyone?

Does it mean trades are imminent and extra forwards will be needed to ice a team? Does it mean some guys will be returned to Laval for further development? Or does it just mean Gorton saw a guy with potential who was available for free and decided there was nothing to lose in looking? I guess we’ll soon find out.

Alexander Romanov may need to evolve into a fighter if the NHL Code can’t handle clean hits.

Can someone tell me when it happened? When exactly did the NHL Code come to include the crazy-ass clause that says a player who throws a clean hit must be ready to answer a call to fight?

On Thursday in Chicago we got to see a Romanov Special. Late in the second period, with the game tied at one, Romanov delivered a monster clean hit on Sam Lafferty who was driving down the right wing. Lafferty was smoked. It was a beauty. But then, Carpenter immediately went for Romanov, dropping the gloves as he went. Romanov had to fight because he delivered a clean hit on an opponent entering his zone.

The refs called it right, and the Habs capitalized on the power play, but the fight itself was just stupid. The good news is that Romanov was ready for it, dropping his own gloves as Carpenter approached. But it may be time for Romanov to book some time with Chris Nilan. Maybe Knuckles can give him some tips on holding his own.

Whether he becomes a pro fighter or not, there is no doubt that every time Romanov lands one of those big hits, he brings some fight back to the Habs bench. I’m here for that.

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

This Mark Twain quote could one day legitimately be etched on Paul Byron’s tombstone. Byron is yet to play a game this season. In July it was announced that he had undergone hip surgery with a projected five-month recovery period. Byron was working his way back when he found himself in the COVID-19 protocol. On Thursday it was announced that he would clear protocol on Saturday and join the Canadiens in Arizona on Monday. He’s close.  

I will be keeping an eye on this player in the weeks ahead. When it looked like the Habs reset was on the rise, I was someone who argued that Bergevin should be looking to move Byron. Byron’s production has been inconsistent with his contract for a couple of years, and with other contracts coming due he was a logical veteran candidate to move. That plan is no longer essential with the setback in the reset.

Byron has been a valuable player in Montreal. He plays a strong two-way game, kills penalties, and has a knack for timely goals. Byron is also a quiet leader on the team, and can fill a role with the French media. He knows who he is and won’t be threatened by the success of youth. With just one year left on his $3.4M contract, he can be useful for the Habs without any cap worries.

If Byron has a strong return, maybe another team sees those attributes, along with his playoff personality, and shows interest between now and the trade deadline. The Canadiens can retain salary to make a deal that benefits them. Perhaps Byron would like a chance to fight for a cup, and if the opportunity arises the Habs should cooperate.  

While the players continued to fight for respectability on the ice, another important battle was ongoing in Zoom meetings.

On Tuesday, Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun of TSN, RDS and The Athletic, reported that he believed the Habs were still in the first round of their GM interviews. LeBrun reported they will have interviewed around 10 candidates in the first round. Presumably, the top candidates would have to fight in round 2, and perhaps beyond.

Then on Friday, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels tweeted his belief that the GM search “could be resolved in the coming days.” He reported being told the candidates had been narrowed to three, and they included Daniel Brière and Mathieu Darche. He also added his expectation that a couple of other interviewed candidates would find roles in the organization.

The new GM better come ready, because once s/he wins that battle, the real fight is just beginning.  

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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