Recap of the Habs loss to the Oilers – after this?

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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?

  1. 45.5%
  2. 49.8%
  3. 51.4%
  4. 51.3%
  5. 55.9%
  6. 55.7%

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.

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14 Responses

  1. @SeanMcintyre403

    Great read Mitch. I was to starting to think maybe Galchenyuk wasn’t a centre. Do you think the coach is burying him to prepare fans for a trade a la Subban. I have this feeling they might move him for a more versatile/veteran centre. (Matt Duchene) Anyway I enjoy your show every afternoon(stream it from Calgary) and your articles.

  2. Kevin Smith

    I struggle to understand the idea that the centre *has* to take the faceoffs. Max Pacioretty has taken more faceoffs this year than any other in his career – 44 so far. It’s a bit small of a sample size, but he’s won 56.8%. So you put Galchenyuk on the top line, he takes most of the faceoffs, but if the puck was iced or you just really need to win it, where’s the harm in giving Pacioretty a go?

    And if you’re not putting Galchenyuk on the first line, then ya, he needs to be at centre and he needs decent winger. Byron’s been over-achieving all year, but his speed is a nice addition. Maybe use Lehkonen, who is so good at being in the right place at the right time and digging out the puck, on the left side.

    I’m not sold on the idea that we *need* another centre. Danault’s been great, Pleks is still reasonably good in a shut down role, and Galchenyuk will be fine. I’d rather Bergevin target a top 6 winger to play with Galchenyuk and Gallagher (once he’s back), leaving Danault with Patches and Radulov, and shifting Byron down to a more exploitative spot.

    • Mitch Melnick

      They need help at C. Maybe the wing. And probably another defenseman.

  3. dra58

    It’s as simple as this M/T is empty and is not a good coach especially of kids and as such we watched him stall A/G career for 4 seasons till this year and now he wan’t to break the kid or something I am unsure of why. He finally showed his true colors by throwing him down a peg and saying what we already know -that he can’t win face- off’s – but we haven’t had anyone who could since we ran Malhotra out of town for not scoring. Here is an idea — why not run M/T out of town for not being a good coach and no don’t chase Juilen because he doesn’t like kids either but maybe pair Gallant up with Captain Kirk as a duo and maybe we will finally be back on the right track. Just a few thoughts from someone who does not like “empty” but who really wants this team to succeed without him because I don’t think we can with him. Pittsburgh knew it finally and we should too.

  4. IMS1965

    I know that it would never happen, but my first thought upon the Bruins’ firing of Claude Julien was that the Habs would immediately let Therrien go and hire Julien (hey, a guy can dream, can’t he, and it happened once before!). MT has mishandled Galchenyuk from day one, so his shifting to the wing on Sunday in favour of coach’s pet, DD (who seems like a standup, nice guy) was nothing new.

    Look, I get that we commoners aren’t privy to the information that the Habs’ brass receives, but we can’t always be wrong all the time, can we? We all see that Jacob de la Rose is more or less useless. We all see that Galchenyuk should be at centre. Period. We all see that DD really should not be playing at all. Can we really be 100% wrong, 100% of the time?

    • dra58

      I am sorry but JDLR is useful as a shutdown player something we seem to be lacking this season. Yes I agree he cannot score but he can prevent other teams from scoring and that is a useful tool at a cheap price especially when compared to Plekanec’s price. Sometimes you need role players and he is a cheap useful one. As for Julien I already addressed my thoughts on that above.

      • Kevin Smith

        Completely disagree. He’s got terrible numbers that show he’s actually a drag on his linemates – corsi isn’t everything, I know, but there’s only 4 people on the team who have a higher corsi with him than without him: Emelin and three players who spent less than 5min on the ice with JDLR.

        JDLR fails both the eye test and the numbers test. This isn’t 1995, we’re not the New Jersey Devils, get rid of the one dimensional shut down players and inject some creativity.

        Also, you must be joking if you’re comparing JDLR to Pleks.

  5. dra58

    I am not comparing him completely to Plek’s only by way of pricing and his primary role on the team as a defender. He may be a drag on corsi but so is Emelin and look at the ice team he has. My point is he is a cheaper option as a defender than Plek’s who has really lost his scoring ability and is being paid 7m this season to be a one dimensional player and JDLR is a one dimensional player who makes 925,000. We really need cap space to sign players for next year and a one dimensional player who has a cap hit of 6m is drag on cap space so yes I am anti Plek’s but only due to his silly contract that makes him a pariah like Gomez was years ago (due to large contract with no offense upside and no real defensive abilities compared to Plek’s).

    • IMS1965

      Maybe Habs management now agrees with me, but de la Rose was just sent down today. Look, he is a minus player. If you’re that “valuable” defensively, you would be a plus player. This is not to say that Pleks hasn’t been a drag on the team as well over the course of the season, but he has been (slightly) better in the last month, and other teams at least have to pay SOME attention to him. De la Rose was a complete void from an offensive standpoint, and the last I checked, it was this team’s complete inability to score goals that has been killing it. You can’t waste a roster spot on someone who contributes zero offense when the team can’t score as it is.

  6. Sharon R.

    Mitch, I’m waiting for your recap of last night’s game!!!!!!

      • sharon rossy

        Hope you enjoyed it! looking forward to your next ones…. I’m sure the concert was more enjoyable than the last few games.

  7. Michael Nixon

    Mitch…you are forgetting one major fact re: Galchenyuk and that is Michel Therrien. Therrien does not like Galchenyuk and until he was forced to last year because of injuries, Galchenyuk would still be on the wing because of Therrien. The issue with the Canadiens goes far beyond the players…it speaks to the foxhole boys. We have a coach who plays favourites and a GM whose regular response is “It’s too hard to make trades”. We have the same issues we had last year but it is worse because we have Weber and we have a healthy Price. Sooner or later, the excuses run out and the finger has to be pointed where it should have been all along.