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Arber Xhekaj Fills Crucial Role in Difficult Canadiens Season

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Canadiens defenceman Arber xhekaj 1

As Arber Xhekaj slowly sheds the rookie shine that led him to be one of the best stories in the NHL, he has transitioned into a key role, one that holds significant importance as a team enters a long-term rebuild.

The Numbers

And it goes beyond his solid play on the ice, although his surprising production is worth discussing.

Xhekaj is tied for third among all rookie defencemen in 5v5 production, with 10 points, trailing only teammate Kaiden Guhle and Tampa Bay Lightning upstart Nick Perbix (12 points).

His secret lies in his heavy shot, and his affinity for getting pucks on net. With 57 shots at 5v5, Xhekaj once again trails just Perbix (60), an area in which the Canadiens tend to struggle, given they’re among the worst teams in the NHL at generating shots.

He’s also showing positive relative underlying numbers, an encouraging sign for a player that went undrafted, and made the jump straight from the OHL to the NHL, an exploit rarely accomplished by defencemen.

The Sheriff

The Canadiens have always thrived on speed and talent, but within every successful roster they’ve iced, the team has also relied upon a few players to even the balances of the physical game.

But for the most part, the players are also tasked with providing useful shifts when they’re not busy patrolling the ice.  John Kordic was one of the few exceptions, but for players like John Ferguson, Maurice Richard, Larry Robinson, Chris Nilan, and even Lyle Odelein, fighting was secondary to earning a win.

Xhekaj has shown he can drive the play when the game is on the line, and though we’re not prepared to compare him to some of the aforementioned legends, it’s clear he’s more than just a fighter.

He’s a solid defenceman who also has the ability to Hulk-out, when necessary, and has also done a much better job in the discipline department of late, at least relatively speaking.

But in a season where the results don’t matter and the price for admission to the Bell Centre continued to rise, Canadiens fans are not losing any sleep when Xhekaj decides to flex his muscles, especially in defence of his teammates.

The Passion

Beyond his fights, which have been numerous and tumultuous, Xhekaj has also displayed the type of devotion that has quickly catapulted him to the status of a fan favourite.

Some may call it pandering, and others may roll their eyes at his fervour, but when it comes down to it, fans need to know the players on the ice have the same type of passion as they do, especially in a season that will feature very few wins.

When the season is no longer on the line, fans find wins wherever they can.

Be it a fight, a heavy body check, or a reassuring display of dedication to the organization.

And few players around the league can match the level of passion displayed by Arber Xhekaj, who has quickly established that he’s more than just a great story.

He’s the great entertainer, providing exactly what Canadiens fans need most to get through the slog that is the 2022-23 season.


All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted 5v5, via NaturalStatTrick.com

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