Recap of the Habs loss to the Oilers – after this?
Nah, I got practically nothing other than to hope that while Connor McDavid slowly gets physically stronger he manages to stay healthy. And I’m happy every time Al Montoya has a good start so he’s able to put even more space between that nightmare in Columbus and the rest of his season (just for the fun of it – as we did a few weeks ago – Montoya’s save percentage minus that night is .932).
So let’s focus here and now on a visual from Sunday that was quite jarring this deep into the season – Alex Galchenyuk playing left wing alongside centreman David Desharnais.
(As I write this the Bruins just (finally) fired Claude Julien. All those losses and goals against on home ice doomed the Stanley Cup winner. I wish earlier reports that Cam Neely would be forced to take over behind the bench were true. We could have witnessed a series of in-game meltdowns that would have moved even Mike Milbury to suggest that Neely has a screw loose.)
Back to Galchenyuk who has been slow out of the gate since sustaining a second injury to his leg (knee/ankle?). Let me try to understand this. The Habs #1 centre was playing left wing with a centre who had been a healthy scratch the game before. Because he’s still not 100%? But Phillip Danault – injured or not – brought zero offense and didn’t miss a shift? To be fair, the entire “top” line of Danault, Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty looked less energetic than a Cowboy Junkies concert. Which might have been expected considering how awesome Radulov was the day before against Washington. But when Danault was injured and missed the third period against the Caps, who was Montreal’s most dangerous forward in that period? Yep, it was Galchenyuk – clearly energized with more talented wingers. So why not flip flop Galchenyuk & Danault in the third period against Edmonton? Because Michel Therrien was more concerned about keeping the puck out his net than forcing the issue at the other end of the ice. So it half worked. It’s not easy to pick up a point in the standings while getting shut out.
Alex Galchenyuk has more offensive skill in his wonky knee than the other Montreal centres combined. The Habs are having trouble generating offense. They’ve taken a beating lately on the shot clock. So the solution is to move Galchenyuk back to the wing? This is insane.
I know it’s a temporary move but it has started (ridiculously so) – in some corners – the Is-Galchenyuk-really-a-centre discussion. Again.
David Desharnais has 4 goals in 28 games. Tomas Plekanec has 7 goals in 54 games, or the exact same totals as Torrey Mitchell, who has gone 27 games without one. Overall, in his last 16 games, Mitchell has two assists. Not quite Jay Beagle. Even Danault – as good as he has looked – hasn’t scored a goal in 6 games and has just a goal and 3 assists in his last 10 games. And he’s playing with Pacioretty & Radulov. Hello?
Galchenyuk doesn’t look the same, you say? Of course he doesn’t. He missed six weeks in the middle of the season. He then returned to play 5 games in 7 days including two games back to back to end that stretch. And re-injured himself. This is an especially terribly long grind of a season not NHL ’17. Have people forgotten how good he was prior to his injury? That he was 8th in NHL scoring at the moment Anze Kopitar clipped his knee in Los Angeles? He’s been back for three games. THREE.
Sabres star Jack Eichel started the season on the injured list with a badly injured ankle. He missed the first two months. What happened when he returned? After an initial burst of energy – 4 points in his first two games – reality set in. In the Sabres next 10 games he scored just twice.
Gachenyuk can’t win face offs you say? I say it too. Because it’s a fact. Therrien is of course correct when he says it takes a lot of energy away when he has to chase the puck for 20 seconds. But that shouldn’t negate his ability to use the middle of the ice when he does have possession. And by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Canadiens lost every offensive zone face off in overtime against Edmonton. Not just Galchenyuk. Danault, Desharnais and Plekanec all had a chance to secure possession of the puck to try to end the game. They all failed. Galchenyuk’s 40.1% face off rate is beyond dismal. But it’s his first full season as an NHL centre. (Seven year vet Desharnais is at 46.5%.). How did Sidney Crosby fare in the dot at the beginning of his career?
It took the kid four full seasons before he could consistently beat opposing centres.
Alex Galchenyuk is one of the most talented young centres in the NHL. He plays for a team that desperately needs help at centre. And around and around we go.
The final words, for now, from Bob Mckenzie on the TSN690 Morning Show with Conor McKenna, Shaun Starr & Rick Moffatt:
Galchenyuk is a centre. He needs to be at centre. He should be at centre. Just put him (back) there and ride it out and hope you get the best from him.