Canadiens Bill Masterton Nominee Joel Armia Turning Heads On The PK

Armia is having a career year, but it has been more than just his goal output.
Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers
Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Joel Armia was somewhat of the Montreal Canadiens scapegoat last season and to start this year.

But since returning from his stint in the American Hockey League with the Laval Rocket, Armia has come back looking like a new player. The 2011 first-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres has been on a tear, since his eight-game AHL stint, in which he scored nine points over that span. But more impressive has been his play away from the puck.

During today's installment of the Basu & Godin Notebook, Marc Antoine Godin, a former writer for The Athletic, who currently covers hockey for Radio Canada praised Armia. Basu enthused about the fact that Armia is such an important penalty killer. He insinuated that the team is in an awful lot of trouble if Armia is in the penalty box.

Through the Canadiens' last two games, nobody has played particularly well defensively; so it's no surprise that Armia also struggled. But before those two games, Armia has been a menace on the forecheck and the backcheck, while being extremely difficult to strip the puck from. Armia's effectiveness on the penalty is a testament to how hard he has worked since returning to Montreal.

Basu and Godin also alluded to the fact that Jake Evans has been great alongside Armia, making a nice one-two punch. Evans's speed and straight-line game make for a seamless fit alongside the big Finnish winger. With the pair on the ice, the Canadiens can generally be pretty confident that both players will give their all to kill off penalties.

With Armia playing so well, Martin St. Louis has had the utmost confidence for the veteran. There is very little surprise that Armia was recognized as the Canadiens nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. If anybody on the Canadiens could be recognized for perserverance this season, it's definitely Armia.

As Eric Engels noted, Armia could have been down on himself and shown poor body language, but his character and work ethic shined brightly. He showed what he is made of, and for the Canadiens who are focusing so heavily on establishing a culture in Montreal, Armia has entwined himself perfectly into the Habs philosophy. Armia has proven that no matter how hard the situation seems, if you keep your head down and show up to the rink everyday with a hardnosed approach, good things will happen.

Arber Xhekaj was another example of a player who had been passed over, but when given a chance he worked his tail off and has been a difference maker for the Canadiens nearly two years into his NHL career. Brandon Gignac is another example, while he hasn't stuck around with the Canadiens, his efforts didn't get overlooked, and he managed a stint with the Habs. It would be easy to praise culture, but Canadiens management has walked the walk, as much as they have talked the talk when building more than just a championship-calibre roster.

But a brotherhood style of culture on and off the ice, where each player stands up for one another. Armia blocks shots, relentlessly kills penalties and he hounds loose pucks. He is a nightmare to get the puck from and his 16 goals are just another straw in his hat, so to speak.

It has been a great year for Armia and while the Canadiens have struggled, he has been a bright spot.