Montreal Canadiens defenseman Arber Xhekaj
Photo credit: CTV

Arber Xhekaj Already Done in Montreal? Things Look Very Bad After Only Two Games Back in the NHL

Published January 26, 2024 at 1:19 PM

After two games since his call-up with the Montreal Canadiens, Arber Xhekaj's return is far from going as planned.

His level of play is nothing like what he brought with the Laval Rocket, as he shows still evident defensive weaknesses, in addition to having incurred several penalties that make him look seriously bad.

Following two more bad penalties during the game against the New York Islanders, Martin St-Louis made a short, but striking statement about the defenseman that speaks volumes.

Journalist: "Arber Xhekaj incurred two penalties tonight and he incurred another one in the last game in the 3rd period. What do you think about it given that he just came back from the AHL?"

Coach Martin St-Louis: "I don't like it." - Via HabsOnReddit


Let's just say the head coach's immediate reaction greatly reflects his dissatisfaction with his young defenseman.

"You can't not dislike the three unnecessary penalties in less than two games that Arber Xhekaj has already incurred since his return from Laval." - Simon-Olivier Lorange, La Presse

Unlike his play with the Rocket, Xhekaj seems extremely nervous on the ice, and he acts like a rookie playing his first NHL shifts, despite his 69 games of experience.

The worst part is that he seems to have forgotten all the good things he was doing in Laval. Although the level of play is much higher in the big league, the Sheriff no longer does the little details that made him special in the AHL.

"This is certainly not the return to the NHL that everyone would have hoped for Xhekaj.

Lots of turnovers and lots of unnecessary penalties.

It's strange how, at the time he was called up, all the confidence he had built in the AHL disappeared." - Cédrick Blais-Turcotte

It's hard to say what's going on in his head right now.

My impression is that he is playing with the fear of making mistakes and disappointing Martin St-Louis, who does not necessarily favor his style of play, instead of playing his "game" with peace of mind as he did under the orders of Jean-François Houle.

It looks a lot like a problem of chemistry and confidence between the coach and his player.

January 26   |   478 answers
Arber Xhekaj Already Done in Montreal? Things Look Very Bad After Only Two Games Back in the NHL

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