Ryan Reaves Acts Tough Against Xhekaj'less Canadiens

Reaves read the starting lineup and decided he was going to play on the edge.
Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens took a thumping, especially in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Already down 3-0, Ryan Reaves decides to assert himself into the game, like the goon he is. He chirped Michael Pezzetta at the faceoff and continued pushing and challenging him. Pezzetta didn't seem all that interested in fighting him, he had in the past and obviously, they are in different weight classes.

Pezzetta did his best to try and breathe some life into the Canadiens with the scrap, but Reaves overpowered him. That's fine and all, but Reaves seemed to feel a little extra pumped up, chirping the Canadiens bench after the fight. As if to say let's go, but there is one thing that seemed to forget.

Arber Xhekaj, who fought him the second last time the two clubs played and he more than handled the Leafs big No. 75. It's quite obvious that had Xhekaj been on the bench, Reaves would have been a bit more humble. And the fight between Pezzetta and Reaves wouldn't have happened at all.

Conveniently, as Grant McCagg put it, Reaves seems to have grown confident and toughened up. But the same couldn't be said after Xhekaj fought him; as he never went back towards Xhekaj. But Saturday night against the Leafs he had no problem skating around bumping and throwing hits in Montreal's crease.

The fighting era of hockey is behind us for the most part, but the Canadiens were smart in signing Arber. Equally, it's easy to see why they selected his younger brother Florian, who has that same edge and isn't afraid to back down. Unfortunately for Arber, Reaves likely won't be around for very long after this season, so it won't likely be a Leafs-Habs scrap between the two heavy-weights, but they will certainly see each other again.

I'm not taking away from what Reaves has done throughout his NHL career, because he will likely go down as one of the better fighter's of this era. But running around like he is against the Canadiens without their tough guy in the lineup is a little bit clownish. It's not a good look, especially for a guy whose reputation is built upon being a tough guy who can hang with the league's tough guys.

When all is said and done with the Canadiens blueline in the future, I think one guy who should be written in stone is Xhekaj. It isn't always pretty having a guy who holds the opposition accountable, but it's what is often needed. Montreal isn't going to sit out from postseason play for much longer and having Arber in the lineup when they reach that next step will do more good than bad for the Canadiens.

Xhekaj is an important player for the Habs and after just half a game without him in the lineup, that fact became crystal clear.