VANCOUVER – Michel Therrien will be sticking with a winning lineup on Saturday night.
When a line combines for 14 points in three games, it’s rare to see them split up the following night. Looking to ignite a spark throughout his lineup against the Oilers after a disappointing outing in Calgary, Therrien did exactly that with his kid line of Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, juggling his trios and coming away with a 4-1 win.
“I didn’t like the way we played in Calgary. I wanted to get the attention of the team and I certainly got their attention,” underlined Habs’ head coach, who brought Tomas Plekanec in to center Gallagher and Galchenyuk and moved Eller to a line with Daniel Briere and Max Pacioretty. “I didn’t want to mix everything up. I wanted to make sure some combinations remained the same. I like stability. Since the first day of training camp, I’ve had a vision for our lines and I wanted to make sure to give the guys enough time to build chemistry. As long as two guys on a line know each other’s tendencies, I think you can build that chemistry.”
Despite being held off the scoresheet for the first time this season, Eller enjoyed a heavier workload in Edmonton, surpassing the 20-minute mark for just the fifth time in his career on Thursday night. While he may have seen his three-game point streak snapped against the Oilers, Eller was happy to see three different lines – including his own – factor in on the scoring in the bounce-back effort at Rexall Place.
“At the end of the day, all that matters is wins and we got one in Edmonton,” confirmed Eller, who is currently sitting third in the league in goals per game behind Tomas Hertl and Alex Ovechkin. “I think with the line juggling, it comes down to everybody just bringing the effort. You’re trying to see early in the season if players can develop some chemistry because that will be good to know in the long run. You want to have more than one option or two for your lines. You want to have a Plan B or even C, so that’s what we’re looking at.”
Having already exhibited Plan A-level chemistry with his original 2013-14 linemates, Eller is quickly starting to gel with his newly-formed trio. Centering Pacioretty on a regular basis for the first time of his career and also flanked by 2013 UFA acquisition Briere, the speedy threesome is already showing some early progress.
“Most of the time, if you see a line with good chemistry, they develop it instantly. A lot of times, it’s either there or it’s not,” shared the 24-year-old pivot, whose linemates each registered a point in Thursday’s win. “Sometimes it takes time to develop, but the first game you have a good idea of whether or not a trio works well together. Anytime you get one or two new guys on your line, it kind of changes things.
“Different players have different assets and things they’re good at and you maybe need a game or two to learn that player and get to know where he goes in different situations and where he’s going to put the puck,” he added. “Those are small details that make a big difference.”
Picking up with Plekanec right where they left off with Eller, Gallagher and Galchenyuk came away with a goal and an assist apiece in Thursday’s game. Calling on their new pivot’s veteran presence, the sophomore wingers have had no problem fitting in no matter what role they’ve been asked to play.
“Me and Chucky can learn a lot from Pleky,” mentioned Gallagher of the 10-year NHL veteran. “With the number of years he’s played in the league and the players he’s played with, he’s learned a lot. Even last game, we learned so much on things like where to be and stuff like that. We’re learning a lot and it’s fun so far and we’ll continue to learn every game we play together.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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The Notebook - October 11, 2013