About last night …

Gally
I’m sick already of the whole torch shtick Bell Centre fans will have to endure before each Canadiens home game.
But a torch was passed during that invigorating 4-1 conquest of the Florida Panthers.
Wearing number 27 for the visitors: Alex Kovalev, who turns 40 on Feb. 24.
Wearing 27 for the home side: Alex Galchenyuk, who will be 19 on Feb. 12.
Two Russians named Alex – one in the twilight – and perhaps beyond – of a great NHL career, the other just getting started.

Some good and great hockey players have worn jersey number 27 for your Montreal Canadiens.

Kovy, of course. And he gave Montreal hockey fans some great seasons.

Also Frank Mahovlich, Rick Chartraw, Shayne Corson, Mathieu Schneider and, last season, Rene Bourque.

I’m not going to suggest that Galchenyuk is going to make us forget them all.

(But even after only two games and one goal, the kid is looking better than Mariusz Czerkawski.)

But as I’ve said since the days leading up to the June draft, this kid has a chance to be a special player.

It’s been a while since the Bell Centre was as loud as the raucous celebration of Galchenyuk’s first goal. And the kid, who has a flair for the dramtic, pumped up the volume by leaping into the glass.

Think Galchenyuk will try that patented Ovechkin move if he scores Thursday night in Washington?

Fans voted Galchenyuk the game’s First Star, but there were many heroes.

• Andrei Markov – who hadn’t scored in more than two years and looked old, frail and tentative against the Leafs in that horrendous season opener – scored twice. Both were power-play goals; and Markov has combined with Raphael Diaz to give the Canadiens a point presence that has transformed the PP … and maybe has P.K. Subban phoning Don Meehan first thing Wednesday morning.

• Carey Price has not yielded an even-strength goal through 120 minutes. The Panthers are not an offensive juggernaut; but as was the case against Toronto, Price was quick, agile and totally in control of his rebounds. The most important player on this team has started his season red-hot, and that augurs well.

• Brandon Prust babysat the kids and contributed on the penalty-kill and the power play. Prust had four hits, following three against Toronto. His grit and energy have endeared Prust to the Bell Centre crowd.

• Francis Bouillon played 23 minutes – only six seconds less than team-leading Markov – and was both a physical force and a calming presence on the Canadiens blueline.

• Michel Therrien made a gutsy move by sitting Lars Eller one game into the season. Neither Therrien nor general manager Marc Bergevin have to make the Jaro Halak trade look good, and the benching sent a clear message about the level of intensity Therrien 2-0 expects from his players.

Facing an early-season challenge – the Canadiens could ill afford to be 0-2 after a pair of games at home in a short season – Therrien wasn’t afraid to put two rookies on his third line and give them significant minutes, including PP time.

Do you think Jacques Martin would have played Galchenyuk and Gallagher … on a line with a guy who had 20 fights last season?

Not likely.

Therrien also had his troops prepared for a Florida team playing its third game in four nights and coming off a pasting in Ottawa. The Canadiens outhit the vistors 19-7 in the first period, took only one minor penalty, grabbed a 2-0 lead and set the tone for pretty much full-game domination.

Washington will present a greater challenge. Their number 27 is Karl Alzner, but I’d keep an eye on 8.

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