MONTREAL- APRIL 3: Nathan Gerbe #42 of the Buffalo Sabres and Ryan O'Byrne #20 of the Montreal Canadiens battle for the puck in the corner during the NHL game on April 3, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Sabres 3-0. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
[Ed. note: As part of the build-up to the first round playoff series between the Capitals and the Canadiens, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important but lesser-known players on the Canadiens and how they might impact the series.]
#20 / Defenseman / Montreal Canadiens
Jul 19, 1984
Victoria, BC, Canada
79th overall, 2003, by Montreal
A tall, intimidating body who is solid 5-on-5, positions himself well around the net, and blocks shots. With aplomb.
|Weaknesses||Not terribly mobile, nor an offensive threat. Rarely seen on special teams.|
|Potential||An old-fashioned "crease-clearing" defender who can shift momentum in favor of his team.
Why you should know who he is - A hulking specimen at 234 lbs., he's listed as larger than any Capitals' player, which is impressive given the size of this Caps' team. He leads Montreal in hits by a wide margin despite somewhat limited action (15:16 ATOI/G), and his hits per game ratio (2.16) bests all Caps' rearguards not named Shaone Morrisonn (2.40). Though defensemen dropping the mitts during the post-season is a rarity, O'Byrne occasionally fights, and he previously demonstrated, during the 2008-09 campaign, an ability to blow the lid off of Brooks Laich.
In short, think of him as the Habs' version of John Erskine.
How the Caps can stop (or prevent themselves from being stopped by) him - With O'Byrne's size, however, comes some sluggish skating, and it's quite possible that O'Byrne sits in the press box to start the series against la grande vitesse of the Caps. He also struggled toward season's end, and his ice time diminished markedly. There's little need to worry about his offense from the point: he scored one goal in 2009-10 about two weeks ago, and his prior NHL tally came over two years before that one (March 3, 2008).
So with him defending, the Caps just have to skate with their natural speed. Make O'Byrne move laterally. Or just dangle a woman's purse in front of him.