MONTREAL – When the Canadiens retooled their roster last summer, the biggest
thing Habs fans might have noticed was the team’s new 6-foot-7 defenseman, Hal Gill.
No stranger to playing at the Bell Centre, Gill and fans alike far enjoyed seeing the super-sized blue-liner playing for the Habs rather than against them for once. Despite counting previous stints with rivals like the Bruins, Leafs and Penguins, the affable and charismatic Gill didn’t take long to convert fans and teammates alike.
“It’s funny, sometimes you can do the exact same thing but people see it differently,” said Gill of his now-burgeoning fan club in Montreal. “I didn’t really change much from the regular season to the playoffs, everything is just magnified that much more. Blocking a shot is a big play.
“That’s one reason I love the playoffs so much,” continued the Concord, MA native. “That sense of urgency is there and it’s all about hard work – those are my strengths. I’m not a pretty player, but in the playoffs you do what you have to do to get the job done.”
Considering Gill first cut his athletic teeth on the football field, it’s no wonder the former quarterback has no problem laying on the body to slow down opposing superstars. While his specialty on the field may have been more about putting up points, looking only at Gill’s offensive up-side doesn’t do justice to what the big blue-liner brings.
Eating up the lion’s share of shorthanded minutes this year, the 13-year veteran excelled at shutting down the league’s top snipers night after night. The expert penalty killer helped keep the Habs’ PK humming along at an 83% efficiency in the regular season and an astounding 84.5% in the playoffs.
While Gill isn’t the most likely Hab on the roster to pot a highlight-reel goal or dangle through an opposing blue-liner, he knows exactly what his biggest asset is on the ice. With a six-foot reach and hulking frame, the 35-year-old averaged 2.2 shot blocks per game in the regular season and finished second in the postseason with 68 blocks to his credit emerging as one of the best shut-down defensemen in the playoffs. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See also2010 NHL Draft: Day 2 Habs select Jarred Tinordi Season review – Mathieu Darche Year in review – Glen Metropolit Year in review – Roman Hamrlik