He's one of the reasons that despite the fact the Canadiens are entering Monday night’s Game 5 at Philadelphia down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, not everyone is ruling them out.
The Habs have already come back from 3-1 series deficits, as the club has won five straight elimination games.
"You can always hear Hal. I don’t know if you know how big this facility is but it’s probably like half a football field to the end of it and you can hear him from down there," Mike Cammalleri said referring to the Habs gigantic practice facility, the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Quebec. "He’s a character and adds a lot to this room. I think it’s important to have a guy like that when you’re facing adversity or in the 3-1 holes we’ve been in. He’s always talking and engaged, sometimes serious or sometimes funny but I’ve enjoyed his presence very much so on this team."
Defenseman Josh Gorges agreed. He has been paired with Gill for much of the playoffs.
"I think that’s one of the best qualities he has, especially in times like this when you get nervous, you get anxious and there’s a lot of pressure on you," Gorges said. "But then you come in and he keeps it loose, always joking around with a smile on his face. He makes you feel a little more comfortable about where you are."
On the ice, Gill has become one the NHL’s best shot blockers and that was one of the reasons he was able to help the Penguins win the Stanley Cup last season. His big body, solid shot-blocking skills, along with his calming presence are three big reasons why the Habs signed him to a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season.
Gill has turned into the reliable defender thanks to one particular former Bruins coach, who was able to steer him in the right direction.
"My second year, Pat Burns pulled me aside because all the forwards were giving me grief about putting it on the glass or wrapping it around the boards,” Gill recalled. "He said ‘you’re the player that gets the puck out. It doesn’t matter how it gets out, as long as it gets out, and if you don’t do that, if you try to be pretty, then you’re not going to be here.’ So it was pretty black and white at that point."
Gill realized an important lesson then, and it has paid off in the last two seasons.
"I am what I am I guess," he said. "Every once in a while I try to make a pretty play and realize it doesn’t work again. So it’s just do what I do and that’s all I can do. I don’t claim to be anything that I’m not. You can like me or not and I don’t really care. I am what I am. They brought me here to be me and that’s what I’m doing."
He is rubbing off on his teammates and making them relax both on and off the ice, especially during dire times like they're seeing in this conference finals series with the Flyers. Gill keeps it simple and that’s what the Habs need to do as they face elimination for the sixth time in this playoff season.
"In times where the heat is on and you want to take it upon yourself to go out and get the job done, you’ll usually do too much and usually accomplish nothing," Gorges pointed out. "But you watch him just go out and do his job and he doesn’t need to make the most flashy play but he usually makes the best play."