My man Dave Stubbs probably knows this, but for me it’s a puzzler:
How often has the First Star been a player who didn’t get on the ice until the game was almost seven minutes old?
Take a bow, Alex Galchenyuk.
You may have made Canadiens history.
And the best is yet to come for the 19-year-old rookie.
Fearless prediction: Galchenyuk will be chosen First Star of many games during the 2014-’15 season. And he won’t often have to wait seven minutes to get into the action.
What took him so long to get off the bench in the 2-1 win over Boston?
During a conversation over pre-game dinner in the media lounge, my man Arpon Basu, who covers the Canadiens for NHL.com, was saying Michel Therrien does not try to match lines during games. The Canadiens’ coach focuses on situations when he makes his line changes. As an example, Basu pointed out that David Desharnais would not be sent out to take a faceoff in the defensive zone.
(And guess who lost the D-zone faceoff that led to Boston’s only goal?)
In his postgame press conference, Therrien said Galchenyuk spent the beginning of the game on the bench because of situations, including two minutes of four-on-four when Andrew Ference and Francis Bouillon took roughing minors a couple minutes into the game.
Galchenyuk made the most of his belated opportunity. He scored on his first shift – a fluke goal, like the other two scored in the game – and spent the rest of the game making positive plays with linemates Lars Eller and Brandon Prust.
Man, this kid is going to be good. Likewise Eller. And Brendan Gallagher.
The future is very bright for your Montreal Canadiens.
And the present isn’t bad, either. The team is three points off the Eastern Conference lead, with a game in hand on the Crosby-less Penguins. The teams meet April 17 in Pittsburgh, and the Canadiens will be looking for their first win in the season series, after two one-goal losses.
Thin margins have been the story of the season in games between the Canadiens and their main conference rivals. The win over Boston was the third in four meetings, and every game has been decided by a goal.
Won’t it be fun if they meet in the playoffs?
And won’t Carey Price be ready for it?
That, for me, was the big takeaway from Saturday night’s game. Price, who lost to the Bruins Feb. 6 at the Bell Centre and was yanked after 40 minutes in the March 27 game in Boston, got the Boston bear off his back with a stellar 26-save performance.
Price got a lot of help from his supporting cast, notably a depleted defence corps that blocked 23 shots. An first-period injury to Alexei Emelin forced Therrien and D coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault to deploy five players in various combinations, and the Dmen rose splendidly to the challenge.
Josh Gorges had the most ice time, 26:18, and blocked six shots. P.K. Subban was customarily brilliant in 25:03 and picked up another pair of assists to boost his point total to 32. In the defenceman scoring race, P.K. has opened up a four-point lead over Ryan Suter and Kris Letang.
The defenceman who really stepped up, however, was Davis Drewiske. Acquired from L.A. for a fifth-round draft choice, Drewiske played 23:50 against the Bruins, blocked four shots, had a couple hits, made excellent first passes and was unflustered by the Boston thumpers who tried to forecheck him into errors.
If Emelin is out for a while – and the injury looked bad – Jarred Tinordi probably will be recalled from Hamilton – unless Raphael Diaz is ready to return. But in three games with the Canadiens, Drewiske has looked like a really good addition.
Of course, it helsp a man-down defence corps if they don’t have to kill many penalties. The Canadiens played a superbly disciplined game and were not shorthanded until the final minute, when Zdeno Chara embellished Eller’s tug on his size XXXXL jersey. Then with Tuukka Rask on the bench for a sixth attacker, the Boston power play couldn’t even attempt a shot on goal.
Of the Bruins’ 27 shots, Chara had four and Dennis Seidenberg had five – 33 per cent of their SoG from two defencemen, plus another three from Johnny Boychuk. Top-shooting Boston forward was Gregory Campbell, with three.
Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand had no shots. Milan Lucic and Jaromir Jagr had one each, Nathan Horton had two.
Contrast the impotence of the Boston forwards to the Canadiens: Michael Ryder and Max Pacioretty had four shots each. Ryan White was the only forward blanked on the shot sheet.
The Canadiens have a well deserved day off on Sunday. A year ago, they played their final game of a miserable season.
In the lineup on April 7, 2012: Chris Campoli, Brad Staubitz, Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj, Frédeeric St. Denis and Louis Leblanc.
They won’t be playing April 9, 2013, when the Washington Capitals come to town.
• My friend Chris O’Brien forced himself to watch Hockey Night in Canada and offered this observation:
Here on Leafs Corner on your local community cable network, let’s discuss the trade deadline, especially the impact on the Leafs.
Luongo or Kiprusoff, let’s talk about what they didn’t do anyways. In Coachs Corner, let’s replay last week’s where we brought in 3 Leafs players postgame to kiss and cuddle, in case you missed it last week. Please TSN take over the rights next year.