How a pair of Finns could help Montreal win the battle against Pittsburgh


There is no easy solution. The Montreal Canadiens’ qualifying round game against the Pittsburgh Penguins will be tough, even more so if the Habs are to pull off a stunning knockdown. We already know how important the trio of Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar is to the success of the team, but in the postseason it takes more than one line for good things to happen. . A strength of the Canadians lies in their qualified options as a mid-six forward, especially in a pair of Finnish winger. Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia aren’t known to light up the scoresheet, but are very versatile, and in the case of Lehkonen – a known playoff player.

I know it’s easy to look at Lehkonen’s later years and find it incredible, but this young Finn managed to break Daniel Alfredsson’s playoff goal record at Frolunda when he was 20 years old. In his only playoff performance with the Canadiens, Lehkonen scored four points in six games while looking like one of the few dangerous Canadians on the ice every night. Armia has 13 playoff games with the Winnipeg Jets, but since joining the Canadiens he’s slowly grown into a whole new player.

So how does that play out in the Canadiens qualifying game?

It’s simple – at least in thought. Lehkonen and Armia are both relentless vanguards, and the two never give up the puck without a battle of some sort. Particularly in the case of Armia, whose skill is fully demonstrated in one-on-one battles as he activates his hands to swing the puck while using his massive frame to keep opponents away from the puck along. planks.

The clip above shows Armia at her best. Using his hands to unbalance the defender, get up and back to a better shooting zone, shrug, swing again and finish with another stick control on the back panels. Additionally, Armia’s wrist shot is extremely heavy and precise, so much so that her teammates said it was the best on the team. It also doesn’t take much space for Armia to let this blow fly, even when battling stick controls on a regular basis.

A deadly shooter with the frame to fight and exhaust opposing defenses is a rare combination, and the Habs have it in Armia. The great Finn has spent most of his season alongside Max Domi or Nick Suzuki, with some time alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi as well. His skills help create space for these talented playmakers and could easily do the same against Pittsburgh.

Lehkonen is a curious case. He does so many little things in every game to make himself a dangerous threat, but can’t seem to capture the magic of his rookie season in terms of finishes. Although many fans are focused on the lack of polish in terms of goal, ignoring what drives Lehkonen in these dangerous places isn’t fair to the young Finn.

Lehkonen’s strength lies in sneaking into the offensive zone, sliding pucks from unsuspecting defenders along the boards and putting them back on the stick of his teammates. It’s never half-speed either. Lehkonen flies into fast and surprising opponents, causing them to misplace the pucks, or simply lose them altogether. In the same vein, he has a knack for sliding cover and in the open space between points in attacking areas. That’s where pairing him up with a player like Armia could pay off big against Pittsburgh. Armia works well attracting defenders, and Lehkonen can use it to get into dangerous spots, or vice versa.

While Lehkonen doesn’t have the expected goal totals, his instant fire is triggered quickly and doesn’t require a lot of space like Armia’s wringer. With his penchant for hanging around the net, that’s quite an advantage for Lehkonen.

We’ve talked about how Shea Weber and Jeff Petry will be key in defense and how the top line will arguably have their biggest job of the year in their hands, but a key in this series could be in the hands of two. Finnish wingers. . Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen have the skills to thrive in playoff hockey, and this qualifying round against the Penguins is a chance to show it. It won’t be pretty most of the time, but if the Habs are to pull off the surprise, they’ll score goals in any way.


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