BROSSARD – In a move that would have been unfathomable earlier in the season, head coach Michel Therrien recently split up the previously inseparable Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. In the past few games, both players have made inroads on their own.
On the heels of a 1-0 loss to the Rangers at the Bell Centre a week-and-a-half ago, the Canadiens’ coach cracked open the team’s best line, comprised of Lars Eller, Galchenyuk and Gallagher. Since then, the Habs have scored an enviable 12 goals in three successive wins. Gallagher’s speed and tenacity has helped kick-start the offensive production of new linemates David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, who was most recently named the NHL’s second star of the week thanks to a five-goal outburst in the past seven days.
“A player like Gallagher brings a lot to a line with his style of play and his enthusiasm. I like his play with Desharnais and Pacioretty a lot right now, and we’re seeing good results,” offered Therrien. “On the other hand, Galchenyuk, Eller and [Brandon] Prust played a good first game together. In the last two games they’ve had some trouble generating scoring chances, and that’s something we’re looking to address. I expect them to keep contributing, and I think the results will come.”
Following the move, Galchenyuk scored a nifty goal against the Wild before being blanked in the following two games.
“There are no excuses for me. Two games without a shot, it’s tough to score if you don’t put the puck on net,” admitted the 19-year-old sophomore, who was Montreal’s first-round pick in 2012. “I need to create more space for myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me. I’ll have to be more aggressive, more creative, and I have to shoot the puck.”
Knowing full well how talented and diligent his former linemate is, Gallagher isn’t too worried about Galchenyuk’s productivity levels. The Edmonton, AB native figures his good friend’s offensive resurgence will start with the man advantage, given the Habs have one of the best powerplays in the league, ranked first in the NHL on the road and fourth overall.
“The difference in the home and away results could just be a coincidence,” mentioned Gallagher, who drives the net as hard at the Bell Centre as he does at any other rink across the NHL. “There shouldn’t be any differences between playing at home or on the road. The only thing I find is how difficult it is to win on the road. When you get a powerplay, it’s a big opportunity. You can use that to get a quick lead early and be more comfortable.
“Our powerplay is pretty simple,” Gallagher, the team’s leading goal scorer with eight goals in 23 games, added. “We shoot the puck, we go to the net and we generate traffic in front. Teams can know that and prepare for it, but we’ll still have one more guy on the ice and that’s hard to defend against. Our edge is keeping things simple.”
While there’s no denying Gallagher plays big in all areas of the rink, the Canadiens will soon get another presence back in the lineup, as six-foot-two forward Rene Bourque has been cleared for contact after missing three games with a lower-body injury.
“It was something that was lingering, so I talked with the medical staff and we felt it was best to rest for a few days so that I can come back one hundred percent,” revealed Bourque, who attempted to play through the pain before sitting out from game action this past week.
“[Rene] will not play on Wednesday,” announced Therrien after practice on Tuesday. “We’re in a position to give him more practice time before putting him back into a game, so we taking that option.”
With the Habs about to play four games in six days, Bourque will get his chance soon enough.
“This is a tough part of the schedule,” acknowledged Therrien. “This is why yesterday we didn’t go on the ice. We’re trying to save our energy to be fresh not only physically, but mentally as well. I liked the jump we had today at practice, but this is definitely a tough stretch. We’ll look to manage the ice time of our players, but we all understand that it will be a difficult few days.”
It all starts against the Sabres on Wednesday
“It’s really demanding, playing in the NHL. No matter which team you play against, it’s tough to win,” insisted Therrien. “Our team has confidence because we stick to our game plan and we have a good work ethic. We’re all aware that it’s difficult to win in the NHL, and it’ll be a tough game tomorrow in Buffalo.”
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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