There was a point when the Montreal Canadiens looked like a team that had small-player mode activated in an arcade hockey game every time they took the ice. The likes of Michael Cammalleri and (still) Brian Gionta didn’t inspire fear in anyone from a physical standpoint, and when push came to shove, often is was a Hab getting shoved down or knocked off the puck.
Things have changed in Montreal though. This team is probably tougher than people realize, and received a massive boost in the sandpaper department by getting Douglas Murray back two games ago.
While the hulking Swede was relatively quiet in his season debut, he was a wrecking ball against the Dallas Stars. He was credited with six hits and blocked three shots along the way. That’s precisely the role that Murray was brought in to fill. He’s not going to play 22 minutes a night and he probably won’t be utilized against the opposition’s more fleet-footed forwards, but Murray will have plenty of chances to lay some people out.
Something he’s proven pretty capable of in his days as a defender in the NHL.
Murray took a lot of heat after he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline last season. He had issues keeping up with the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs and was victimized by more than one smooth-skating forward. As long as Montreal continues to give him somewhat protected minutes while using him as a physical presence for 12 minutes a night, this should be a mutually beneficial combination.
Just wait until Alexei Emelin gets back. Whammy.