Thursday, January 8, 2009

Montreal's big free agent acquisition

Who needs Mats Sundin when the Habs found their biggest off-season acquisition right in their own backyard?

That would be the new and improved Maxim Lapierre, who is carving himself out quite the niche as one of the league's elite pests.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were so thrown off their game by Lapierre's jawing, they were more concerned with running him than getting back in the game. The result? A 6-1 drubbing at the Bell Centre while the Leafs tried to turn the second period into a slugfest, largely triggered by Lapierre's agitating ways.

In a way, he's taken the place of Darcy Tucker in this rivalry, and I'm sure as elated Montreal fans are to be watching Lapierre induce this degree of hatred from the Leafs, he is reviled in Toronto, just like Tucker was here.

Lapierre's emergence this year could have the equivalent effect of last year's coming out party for Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, because he's also bringing Guillaume Latendresse along for the ride.

Now if only the Canadiens could find an enforcer so Tom Kostopoulos wouldn't feel obligated to get his head bashed in whenever things get a little out of hand, like he did with Jamal Mayers Thursday night. That way the Lapierre line could stay intact without losing an integral piece for five minutes at a time while Kostopoulos ices his noggin in the penalty box.

What's that? The Canadiens do have an enforcer? What's his name again?

The blowout also gave Yannick Weber a perfect opportunity to get his feet wet, and I'd say he did a pretty good job, even earning a few even strength shifts on defence late in the game. The power play made an adjustment to accomodate his right-handed shot on the right point, with Alex Kovalev trying to tee up one-timers for him from the right half boards.

Though he didn't produce much it would be an interesting twist to throw at the league's penalty kill coaches because it's something they're not used to seeing from the Habs, and I'd really like to see Weber in a game where his nerves aren't eating him up inside.

Finally, that's two solid outings in two nights for Jaroslav Halak, which is encouraging, but only really proves he needs to work on his consistency.


SRS said...

Watched the game on DTV... so got the Toronto sportsnet feed. They were saying that Laraque was with the team in Florida and sent home. They were not saying exactly what for but alluded to the fact that it had nothing to do with his injuries. That was in the first. This was followed by another few comments in the third where they mentioned Laraque was forced to remove his blog from the net by the habs... saying something to the effect of "he should concentrate on hockey." and "i don't think he'll be playing for a while" What's the word??????? What'd he do Basu?

Swiss Chris said...

Thanks for the info on Weber. Do you think he'll become a regular contributor now?

Topham said...

A few people have wrongly stated that Laraque would have been able to take TK's place in that fight. The fact is, the Leafs were out to get Kostopoulos for his hit on Van Ryn earlier this season, plain and simple. He would have been egged into a fight no matter who else was dressed, I suspect.

As for Lapierre, is he really hated a la Tucker in TO? I have a lot of friends there, and they are indifferent. The bloggers I interact with from Toronto never mutter a word about Max.

Jeremy said...

Topham: Agreed... the Toronto fans all seem to have a hate on for Tom the Bomb since the Van Ryn hit. No real dislike that I've seen for Max, Pittsburgh and Ottawa fans on the otherhand...

I'm also pretty sure the game ended 6-2 last night, Arpon... ;)

Arpon Basu said...

Indeed, the game did end 6-2, thanks for calling me on that. I had also forgotten about the retribution for Kostopoulos on the Van Ryn hit, but the reason I wrote what I did was that RDS had a close up of Kostopoulos and Mayers lining up for the faceoff, and to me the look on TK's face was one of pure fear. Well, maybe not fear, but just a realization he was about to get into a situation he wasn't prepared to handle. The whole point of having a guy like Laraque on your team - at least as far as I understand the usefulness of having an enforcer - is that when the opposition wants to target one of your guys, they will do so with the knowledge they will have to answer for it later. Laraque's presence is supposed to serve as a deterrent to other teams, because he barely finds anyone willing to actually fight him. With him nursing a "groin" injury, that deterrent simply isn't there.
Finally, if Lapierre is not hated by fans in Toronto right now, I suspect he will be pretty soon. It was evident last night - to me at least - that the entire Toronto lineup hates his guts. At one point Lapierre was yapping at the Toronto bench and every single Maple Leaf was on his feet jawing back. That is what you call being a pest.