Montreal Canadiens: Big, Physical Defence Has Opponents Whining After Just One Game

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens defensemen took a lot out of opponents.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had a clear vision for what he wanted his defence to look like and he made it happen.

Over the last few years, Bergevin added Brett Kulak who is 6’1″ and 192 pounds, Ben Chiarot who is listed at 6’3″ and 234 pounds, Joel Edmundson who is 6’4″ and 227 pounds and rookie Alexander Romanov was convinced to move to the NHL from Russia, though he is the runt at 6’0″ and 208 pounds.

It is pretty obvious that Bergevin wanted a big, physical, grinding group of defenders to play in front of Carey Price and Jake Allen this season. After just one game, his plan has star players of other teams crying out for the referees to change the way they have always called the rules. This would ensure they don’t have to deal with as much punishment when facing the Habs.

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Following a 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on opening night, the star players of the winning team were vocal about the punishment they received in front of the net. Auston Matthews called out the referees for not cracking down on this matter and John Tavares spoke about how officials have allowed defencemen to cross the line when defending the area in front of the net.

Matthews was worried about a few hacks to his back from Ben Chiarot and Shea Weber in the waning moments of regulation. He failed to mention if he thought the league needs to crack down on kneeing infractions, like the one he got away with that could have knocked Josh Anderson out of the lineup long term. He also didn’t say if he thought he deserved a penalty for breaking his stick across Chiarot’s back earlier in the battle.

There is no question that officiating is inconsistent and frustrating for every team in the National Hockey League. Was Nick Suzuki’s holding penalty an egregious infraction that necessitated a penalty? No, but neither was Zach Bogosian’s when he quickly grabbed Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s jersey. Did he slow down the Habs centre or change the play at all? No, so why call a penalty?

On the other hand, was Zach Hyman’s high stick that nearly tore Phillip Danault’s helmet off worth a call? Yes, but of course it wasn’t called.

In the battle that preceded the Wayne Simmonds and Chiarot fight, Chiarot hammered Simmonds with a nasty cross check in the upper back near the neck that wasn’t called. Then Simmonds turned around and gave Chiarot a healthy whack back that also wasn’t called. Finally, Chiarot gave a half-hearted push with his stick that was the third most viscous infraction, but that was when the refs arm went up.

Expecting consistency from NHL referees is a fool’s errand. It seems like it should be possible, but there have been decades of inconsistency and incompetence.

Star players around the league know this. They should also know that they have to expect a physical battle if they head to the front of the opponent’s net. This has been commonplace since the NHL began over a century ago.

After playing the Montreal Canadiens just once this season, the Maple Leafs best players are asking NHL referees to call the game differently than they have for the past 100 years.

Next. Romanov looks terrific in NHL debut. dark

The Leafs won the game on opening night, but it is pretty clear they know they are in for a lengthy battle with the Habs this season. The Leafs are whining after just one game against the Canadiens, imagine what would happen in a playoff series.