Lapierre a Perfect Fit in Anaheim

You might call Maxim Lapierre the perfect fit in Anaheim. He’s 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds of solid muscle. He hits. He’s neither young nor old at just under 26. And he’s been in the league nearly 300 games, so he’s just slightly behind the Ducks’ young core, two of whom, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, have just arrived at 400 games apiece.

Interestingly, Lapierre is the fourth player to come over to the team from Montreal in the past couple of seasons, the others being former first-rounder Kyle Chipchura, Saku Koivu, and Paul Mara. Only two of the four were dressed for Anaheim Sunday night, with Chipchura surrendering fourth-line duties and Mara sitting as a defenseman.

Lapierre was traded from the Canadiens for Brett Festerling and a fifth-round pick in 2012 back in late December. He’s what you might call a Ducks’ Duck, if the numbers are anything to go by. With the Habs — who originally drafted him in the second round in 2003 — he had 108 hits this year, 63 PIMs, and had played in all of the team’s 38 games to the day they traded him.

Over the past three years, the native of Saint-Leonard Quebec, in the Montreal area, has logged 295 games with a first, partial season in Hamilton of the AHL and Montreal.

Why would the Habs, a notoriously small team, get rid of a guy like this?  The question is intensified when you see him. He’s everything a team like Montreal needs, with size, French background, and (just saying) a stunning handsomeness that would make him the perfect media darling, it might seem.

The local French-language newspaper, Le Journal de Montreal, according to a French-speaking source I consulted, reported recently that Lapierre and coach Jacques Martin just didn’t get along.

“It’s a weird feeling to be honest,” Lapierre said about the trade. “It’s the first time in my career, even in Junior I never was traded, or midget or anything. So it’s a weird feeling. You’re shy at the beginning getting with a new team, but it’s fine.  It’s a great group of guys, and I think I’m going to enjoy Anaheim.”

“Chipper [Chipchura], Saku, and Paul Mara are all great guys,” Lapierre added about reuniting with his former Habs teammates. “I played with them in Montreal. We had a lot of fun there, and bringing it here now, we’ll play well.  It was nice to have those guys at the beginning.

“You know, sometimes you meet the organization, and you figure it out that you’re not part of the plans anymore, and it all depends on the game plan and the system. It was different. Jacques Martin was there, that’s why . . . . We talk, and it was good for me to change.”

Read that how you will, but it looks like the Montreal newspaper story was right.

Good for the Ducks. Sunday night was Lapierre’s third game with them. Aside from registering a team high six hits on the night against San Jose, Lapierre killed penalties, sucked up nearly eighteen minutes of ice time over 21 shifts, registered three of the team’s 28 shots, blocked two shots, and won 61 percent of his faceoffs.

That latter number was no fluke, or based on a small number of draws, where he was 11-7 in the faceoff circle.

“I worked a lot with Guy Carbonneau when I was in Montreal,” he said about taking face-offs. “I think he was a specialist when he was in the league. I keep it simple. I always do the same thing, which is to go under his stick, and it works for me most of the time.”

His place on the Ducks’ roster right now is to slot with Brandon McMillan and Joffrey Lupul on the third line. McMillan has played about half the team’s games this year, and Lupul has played in 16 contests coming into Sunday after a year’s layoff from injury. Lapierre had nine points (five goals, four assists) coming into Sunday.

It might also be worth noting that je has been used six times on the shootout, scoring three goals. That’s a percantage higher than Koivu, Teemu Selanne, and Bobby Ryan, just to name a few. Makes one wonder what might happen the next time the Ducks find themselves in that situation.

For Lapierre, the adjustment to SoCal hasn’t been hard. Lapierre is living in his own place as of a couple of days ago, something which he says allows him to relax.

“Every day you learn something new about the place, but I would say I’m really comfortable here,” he said about his new home. “We have good people here working hard for us. And for the car, I just left it home.

“It’s great when you win. People pull you aside, but it’s a tough city when you lose,” Lapierre added about his old home. “I enjoyed my time there, but it’s time to have something new. It’s a new start here, and I’m sure it’s going to be great here, too.”

“Max coming in, and obviously I knew him well from the years in Montreal, you try to give him a bit of a heads-up, what life is in hockey here, and the difference between Montreal and the West Coast,” Koivu said. “You know, he’s been around. There’s not too much you have to tell him.  But for him to come here, knowing a few guys from Montreal, makes him more comfortable right from the day one, and it makes it a bit easier.”

Rarely does a player come to a new situation and start as effectively as Lapierre has in Anaheim. Perhaps that comes from the freshness of things. More likely, it’s because he’s got a niche that he grasps, and that set of skills is precisely what the Ducks need.

Lapierre’s style of play — his toughness, size, and tenacity — make him a precise amalgamation of qualities that are what “Duckness” has been since the Brian Burke era.

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