I hate to be a glass-half-empty guy – especially after spending Sunday cocktail hour at the Bell Centre – but that was the New York Islanders on the short end of a 4-2 score.
The guys from Long Island are, arguably, the worst team the Canadiens have played this season.
OK, maybe Calgary … but out heroes, as you’ll bitterly recall, lost to the Flames.
Despite a couple anxious moments, there was never much danger of losing to the Islanders, who were playing their second game in two nights and wrapping up a four-game road trip during which they were outscored 16-6.
(Gazette photo by Dario Ayala)
So some sage advice from Donnie Downer – initials DD, like the struggling centre who got two minutes of power-play time Sunday night:
Don’t pick out your spot for the parade just yet.
A sterner test awaits the Canadiens Tuesday night, when Tampa Bay visits the Bell Centre. The Lightning sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 12-4 record and a plus-15 goal differential. Tampa bay is 5-2 on the road, 8-2 in their last 10 and riding a four-game win streak into Montreal.
The Canadiens are on a one-game win streak. Beating the Islanders spared them the ignominy of matching the five-game losing streak of Feb. 19-28, 2012 … when the fifth loss was at Tampa Bay.
The win moved the Canadiens past Ottawa into the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. The Senators, however, have a game in hand.
What I liked about the win can be summarized by the title of a Who classic.
The kids are alright.
And barring injury or ill-advised trade, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are going to be more than alright for a long time.
The line combined for three goals and eight points against the Islanders. They were named the Three Stars of the game – and if that’s happened with one of the Canadiens’ forward lines in recent times, it escapes my imperfect memory.
Best of the three was the CH crest-kissing Galchenyuk. It was the first three-point game of his young career – but it won’t be the last. The phenom his teammates call “Chucky” is the most promising young forward this team has had in a long, long time.
In the weeks leading up to the 2012 draft – in which the Canadiens, by virtue of finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference – would have the third overall pick, I bought The Hockey News Draft Preview issue. THN had Galchenyuk rated seventh, behind his Sarnia linemate, Nail Yakupov, Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba and Morgan Rielly.
Galchenyuk had suffered a pre-season knee injury and played only two regular-season games in his draft year. Then the Sting were knocked out of the OHL playoffs.
What caught the eye, however, were Galchenyuk’s stats with his midget team in Chicago – 44 goals, 43 assists in 38 games – and his first season in Sarnia: 31 goals, 52 assists in 68 games.
Had he not been injured, Galchenyuk – a workout warrior who wowed scouts at the pre-draft combine – might have pipped Yakupov for first overall draft pick. As it was, he was still available when the Canadiens picked as Edmonton took Yakupov and Columbus selected defenceman Ryan Murray.
Galchenyuk began the 2012-’13 season in Sarnia – 27 goals, 34 assistsin 33 games – and then surprisingly made the Canadiens’ roster out of abbreviated, post-lockout training camp. He did not set the league on fire last season – 9 goals, 18 assists while playing a shade over 12 minutes a game – and was overshadowed by the spectacular rookie year posted by Gallagher, his linemate and road roommate.
Galchenyuk has three goals and 11 assists while averaging 15:38 per game this season. His 14 points trail P.K. Subban’s 17.
Among the team’s LWs, Galchenyuk has eight more points than Rene Bourque, who averages 16:30 ToI, and 11 more than Max Pacioretty, who plays more than 17 minutes per game.
The Canadiens have brought Galchenyuk along slowly, and that’s probably a good thing. It’s almost certain he will end up playing centre, but after trying him at that position during the Canadiens’ road trip to Minnesota and Colorado, which produced two losses, coach Michel Therrien moved Galchenyuk back to wing and reunited him with Eller and Gallagher.
They’ll be together for a while. Against the Islanders, the kids were the easily the Canadiens’ best line … and my fellow half-emptyites might suggest EGG are the team’s only top-notch line.
The jury is out on that. I saw some grit from Max Pacioretty, whose five shots on Kevin Poulin were second to Galchenyuk’s six.
The jury seems to have rendered a verdict on David Desharnais, with even Montreal mayor-elect Denis Coderre tweeting the suggestion that DD be given “a one-way ticket to Hamilton.” If Daniel Brière is ready to return to the lineup against Tampa Bay, we could see him between Michaël Bournival, who is on pace for 23 goals, and Rene Bourque.
In becoming the first opponent this season to be outhit by the Canadiens (18-15), the Islanders did not unduly tax a defence corps that is vulnerable to the forecheck any time P.K. and Andrei Markov aren’t on the ice. Francis Bouillon played 18:22, but that included three easy minutes on the power play. Raphael Diaz had four of the team’s 23 blocked shots – one stop fewer than Carey Price.
From where I’m sitting, Alexei Emelin can’t get back into the lineup soon enough.
Ditto for Brandon Prust.
The kids ARE alright, but they’ll need help as the Canadiens start playing Eastern Conference rivals.
• Stat of the Night, from Guillaume Lefrançois of Radio-Canada: The average age of Canadiens goal-scorers against the Islanders was 21 years, three months.
• Another stat: Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s second period goal broke an 0-for-24 drought for the Islanders’ power play. The goal also ended a 21-for-21 run of perfection for the Canadiens’ penalty-kill.
• November 11 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7MuMnss4Rw