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Too hot to handle

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Every time Alex Galchenyuk has touched the puck of late, it seems like something good has happened.

On Thursday night, the 22-year-old centerman didn’t miss a beat, registering his third straight multi-goal game in the Canadiens’ 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. It marked the fifth time in his last eight games that Galchenyuk had scored twice in a single contest, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a Montreal Canadiens player in 57 years. Hall-of-Famer Jean Beliveau was the last man to do it, going on a similar streak between February 28 and March 15, 1959.

Brian Savage, meanwhile, was the last Canadiens player prior to Galchenyuk to string together a three-game multi-goal streak. That was back in October 1995.

With 11 goals in his last eight games – coupled with an astounding 44 percent shooting percentage during that span – Galchenyuk is absolutely dominating opposing netminders and impressing everyone around him in the process. That’s especially true when it comes to head coach Michel Therrien.

“He’s taking advantage of the opportunities he has right now. A lot of credit goes to him with the way he’s developed. He’s not the same player that he was maybe three months ago. We started the year with the intention to give him the opportunity to play on the top two lines as a centerman. We didn’t get the results we were looking for,” said Therrien, who met with members of the media on Friday morning following off-ice workouts at the Bell Sports Complex.

“Even at times when we put Alex with [Max] Pacioretty, it wasn’t a matter of goals or assists or points. They didn’t get any scoring chances when they played together for like three games [earlier this season]. When you see those things, you think he’s probably not ready for that type of role,” added Therrien, who is clearly impressed with Galchenyuk’s remarkable production in recent weeks. “That’s why I’m saying I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Alex. He’s kept on working and working, and now he’s taking advantage of the opportunities he’s being given.”

Flanked by Pacioretty and fellow young gun Sven Andrighetto, Galchenyuk is enjoying unparalleled goal-scoring success and the trio is thriving night after night. Over the last three games, they’ve combined for 15 points and they aren’t showing any sign of slowing down.

“He’s obviously playing really great hockey,” said Andrighetto, who has three assists in his last two games – all of which have come on Galchenyuk markers. “I don’t know if you can get hotter than that. I’m really excited to be playing with him on the same line. He’s at his best right now and we want to keep it going.”

Galchenyuk, who now leads the Canadiens with a career-high 25 goals and ranks fourth on the team with 46 points, fully understands the need to do just that given the club’s ongoing battle to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 14 games to go.

“I’ve definitely never been that hot in the NHL, but like I said after the last game, too, I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates. The first goal was a great set up by Patch and the second goal was a gift from Sven. I give them a lot of praise for that,” said Galchenyuk following Thursday night’s victory at the Bell Centre. “You have to keep going, though. Things get forgotten about really quickly, so you have to stay focused and keep going.”

It’s just that type of mindset that has Therrien believing that Galchenyuk is making important strides in his game every single day.

“I think he’s more mature in his game. He’s going harder to the net. He’s paying more attention to detail. It’s normal to see that curve in a young player. We’re happy about the development that Alex has had over those years,” said Therrien. “I believe we just saw some of the results that come with the patience, teaching and hard work that Alex has done. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another step in the right direction.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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