Let’s be clear. The Montreal Canadiens don’t plan on trying to out muscle the Boston Bruins in their first round match up beginning this Thursday at the TD Garden. Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, and Zdeno Chara are large men. Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Mike Cammalleri are not. It’s simple tape measure science.
Instead the Canadiens will look to employ the fundamental systems play provided by head coach Jacques Martin, relying on defense, patience, and making the most of whatever offensive opportunities are produced by their quick puck moving forwards.
But the Canadiens shouldn’t fully rely on the Bruins voluntarily falling in line with their puck moving finesse game plan. Twice this year the Bruins have shown that they have the ability to bully the Habs into a run and gun physical affair where the Canadiens are at a severe disadvantage.
Enter the only outright physical presence the Canadiens possess in rookie Ryan White.
The 6’0, 200lb center, built in the mold of a long lost Hanson brother with flowing hair and youthful grin from the penalty box, has been providing the majority of the Canadiens physical game since his last call up from the Hamilton Bulldogs on March 1st.
After the wild fight filled 8-6 Bruins win against the Canadiens on February 9th it was clear that the Habs were lacking the ability to defend themselves in a game where emotions and physical play ran high. If any sequence exhibited this perfectly, it was of rough and tumble Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk fists clenched bearing down on top of a cowering Jaroslav Spacek who obviously had no intentions of fighting.
The next Bruins/Canadiens tilt a Month later in Montreal, White was in the lineup and just three minutes in Boychuck took a full head of steam run at Montreal defensemen PK Subban and White made it known that the type of game that took place a month earlier would not be repeating itself at the Belle Centre that evening.
“We can’t have guys taking runs at Subby,” explained White.
After leaving Boychuk with a swollen eye and the realization that the Bruins would not be picking fights with the Canadiens s players that evening, the Habs were able to settle down the pace of play and went on to a 4-1 victory despite eventually losing Max Pacioretty to injury.
“We don’t want them opening up this rink, trying to come in here and push us around and it was a good opportunity for me to step up and things worked out pretty well after that.”
For now White bears the burden of playing protector and enforcer for his Canadiens against a Bruins team never short on heavyweight force.
Long gone for the Canadiens are the days of legitimate enforcers like Georges Laraque or even seasoned agitators like Maxim Lapierre, but White has had no problem taking on whatever piece of the enforcer roll he can.
Though White is obviously not skill set player, he has contributed with two goals and three assists in his 27 appearances this season. But what stat can show the type of contribution the Canadiens are really looking for from White?
In the last month since joining the Canadiens for the long haul, White has dropped the gloves on three occasions, in addition to once in January on an earlier call up. On every one of those occasions the Canadiens have gone on to win the game, and the total combined score of those games? 23-4.