Alex Galchenyuk was, once again, the Story of the Game Tuesday night as the Habs won in overtime against the Dallas Stars.
Following an extremely disappointing 4-game losing streak on the road, the Canadiens were back at the Bell Centre to face the strong Stars (first in the West).
Since February 12, Galchenyuk has had 5 2-goal games – including Tuesday’s where he scored the game-winning goal. His productivity of late has been more than impressive: it’s been a case for dubbing him “untouchable” as far as the team roster is concerned.
The game started with a Dallas goal at the 3-minute mark of the first period. Max Pacioretty tied the game 2/3 of the way through the period.
In the second period, the Stars scored early on with a power-play goal at 17 seconds in. But the Habs made a definitive statement when, on their 11th and 12th shots of the game, they scored two quick goals: Galchenyuk at 53 seconds in, and newcomer Phillip Danault at 3:37.
— NHL (@NHL) March 9, 2016
The period was a strong one for both teams, with the Stars tying it with just a minute left.
It was good to see the Canadiens keep pushing through a fast-paced third period, which ended with no tie-breaking goal.
Overtime was the dramatic part of the game.
The Habs got a great chance when Galchenyuk took a shot that went wide, but the team kept pressing. On the same shift, Kris Russell, of the Stars, broke his stick in his own zone; with the Habs pressuring Kari Lehtonen, set up to shoot, it was essentially a 3-on-2 game, and they wasted no time capitalizing on the advantage.
With his classic one-timer (on a beautiful pass from Andrei Markov), Galchenyuk beat Lehtonen, and won the game for the Habs at 1:59 of the OT period.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 9, 2016
Let’s take note of the roster for the Canadiens. Brendan Gallagher, injured in the game against Winnipeg on Saturday night, is out for 2-3 weeks, it was announced on Tuesday. Lars Eller was out of the lineup as well, for undisclosed reasons.
Arpon Basu put it succinctly:
So Habs injured list tonight is: Price, Gallagher, Eller, Petry, Beaulieu, Gilbert, Desharnais, Carr and Flynn. That's nine players.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) March 8, 2016
But the Habs have filled the gaps with players like Lucas Lessio (who recorded his first assist with the Habs on Tuesday night), Mike Brown, Mike McCarron, Jacob De La Rose, Sven Andrighetto and so far, even through losses, the call-ups have played well.
For a team depleted – without its star goaltender for most of the season – and a revolving door of call-ups, the Habs have managed to keep a disappointing season exciting as we saw in Tuesday’s game.
But there is no doubt to anyone who has been paying attention that Alex Galchenyuk is The Story. Mine isn’t the first, or only one which is making mention of his talents, and that’s because he is a remarkable player who stood out even more in this game.
It helps that he’s been put into the role of top-line centre for the past two games, and it has looked good on him. Two goals the past two games, plus an assist on Tuesday night, a game-winning OT goal, and a dominant performance every single game – these are the reasons he is getting so much well-deserved attention.
In fact, in the past 7 games, he has had 4 2-goal games, 9 goals altogether. He’s sitting at 23 goals, 44 points this season, and there are still 15 games left. Should he continue in this vein, he’ll hit well over 30 goals for the season, and possibly more.
We have all discussed his being misused/underused this season, and how that is squarely on the coach’s shoulder. In fact, asked that very question, Michel Therrien didn’t seem to attribute anything to the change in position. Here is his full statement:
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 9, 2016
I know, you’re scratching your heads too. Is anyone else wondering – with frustration in their hearts – what might have been this season had Galchenyuk been put there all season long? Imagining all the goals the Habs might have scored? Imagining not having a slump at all?
Sure, all hypotheticals, but it’s hard not to see the correlation between the new role Galchenyuk is playing and the successes he is seeing.
Is it too little too late? Well, no, because it’s not “too little” at all. This is his time to shine, and to enjoy his meteoric rise. There’s nothing wrong about that.
But too late? This has been a roller coaster season, and who knows what might happen in the next 15 games? (No one knows, and that’s part of how much fun this game can be)
For now, my advice is to just enjoy the games; if you’re hoping for a tank, there’s nothing I can really say – I don’t see how any fan can watch a winning game like this, especially the joyous celebration on the ice after the team won, and not feel the same exhilaration.
But if you’re just going with the flow – because what else can we do, right? – enjoy the wins, take the losses in stride, and celebrate being a Habs fan.
In addition, I have always been a Greg Pateryn fan. From the time he took a whole bunch of stitches in the playoffs against the Sens, came back the next game and helped the Habs get past the round, I knew he was one to watch. The way he’s been playing this season shows why he is so valuable. And with Tom Gilbert about to become a UFA, along with his extended injury, it looks like Greg Pateryn is auditioning – successfully – to assume Gilbert’s place on the blue line. I have no doubt that’s how it will play out. But as always, time will tell.
Next game will be on Thursday (March 10th), against the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Now that we know the Habs are without Gallagher, let’s see if this winning game can serve as a template for more wins.
It’s certainly time for an extended winning streak, don’t you think?