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Georges Laraque reminds us that without Arber Xhekaj, Ryan Reaves did what he wanted yesterday.
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens lost 4-2 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is the second time this season that the Habs have lost to the Leafs on a Saturday night at the Bell Centre, which clearly hurts the Habs in this Leafs-Canadien rivalry.

The Tricolore didn’t play badly yesterday, but they did get roughed up on several occasions during the game, both offensively and in terms of sturdiness.

Last night, Ryan Reaves was much more visible than in the first two meetings between the two teams.

Indeed, after being completely invisible in two games, Reaves did whatever he wanted on the Bell Centre ice.

He wasn’t shy about handing out big checks and throwing down the gloves against Michael Pezzetta, a fight that Reaves won.

Auston Matthews, who looked like he was having an epileptic fit after the Reaves fight, gave Reaves a lot of credit for his match.

Hats off to Pezzetta for his courage and determination, but he was really manhandled by Reaves.

By the way, Ryan Reaves’ brother Jordan commented under TSN’s Instagram post that he felt sorry for Pezzetta’s family who had to watch this fight.

(Credit: Instagram/TSN)

In short, why did the Leafs’ tough guy take so much heat last night?

The answer is simple, and Georges Laraque made a point of saying it loud and clear this morning.

Arber Xhekaj’s absence from the line-up due to injury made all the difference.

Indeed, without Xhekaj in the lineup, Reaves didn’t have to fear for his safety when he went to rough up the Habs players, because no one can match his toughness if Xhekaj isn’t there.

I’m sure Reaves slept very well for his pre-game nap after learning that Xhekaj wouldn’t be playing.

Ever since he looked bad against Xhekaj in the first game of the season, Reaves has never wanted a rematch with the Habs defender, both immediately in the same game and in the second clash between the two teams months later.

Reaves hasn’t been invisible for nothing when Xhekaj is in the line-up.

He looked bad once, and he doesn’t want to look bad a second time.

In short, Georges Laraque, who still gave Michael Pezzetta some love, once again demonstrated the importance of Arber Xhekaj in the Habs line-up.

His mere presence is of paramount importance.

He scares the opposition, and gives his team-mates confidence that they have much less to fear with the sheriff on their side.

Add to this the fact that Xhekaj is a solid defender who is very capable of playing hockey and helping his team.

His time in Laval, and the fact that he was paired with David Savard on his return, enabled him to find his bearings and focus more on his defensive skills.

The Montreal Canadiens can count themselves truly fortunate to have a Xhekaj in their ranks.

Imagine if they ever had two.

In a gust

– Today’s schedule for the Habs.

– Amazing!

– Nick Suzuki in very good company.

– It’s coming!

– He’s probably right.

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