Remember when people wondered if the Montreal Canadiens’ coaching change would mean a new lease on life for Alex Galchenyuk? Remember when people made fun of other people for critiquing how Claude Julien handles younger players who score but maybe make mistakes?
Yeah … about that: Galchenyuk skated on the Canadiens’ fourth line on Monday. His linemates were not necessarily dynamite in Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen.
Julien at least made it sound reasonable.
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“In my estimation it’s not who you play with, but how you play. And we need scoring from all the lines, and he can provide that with that line. That’s the main goal to get scoring from all the lines. Right now, I’ve got better balance and better depth as far as scoring is concerned,” Julien said, according to the Montreal Gazette. “We’re not worried about ourselves individually, we’re worried about how we can help the team. That’s what you have to do in the playoffs.”
Back in February, when Julien began as Habs head coach, Galchenyuk started out in a spot many Montreal fans envisioned: as their top center. That honeymoon was short-lived, as he soon was discussing how he needed to make the talented forward “better” defensively.
When you look at Galchenyuk’s game log, his ice time has been all over the map .. as has his production. One would guess that both sides carry some of the blame for this bumpy time, but you’d think he would be the sort of player Montreal might need when goals become scarce during the playoffs.
Now, it’s foolish to go into panic mode. Julien could very well change his line combinations before Montreal even engages in Game 1 against the New York Rangers.
Still, it’s a head-scratching situation overall, and one to watch in the postseason.
As the Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy frontrunner, there’s no doubt that Connor McDavid is the catalyst for the Edmonton Oilers.
Still, the scary thing for opponents is that, while he created chances against the San Jose Sharks, McDavid wasn’t exactly lighting them up for points.
Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.
(A fully healthy Hampus Lindholm would increase their odds, mind you.)
Either way, the Oilers’ “other guys” deserve some credit, and they get it in the video above.
Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.
Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.
The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.
It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.
Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.
Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.
Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.
The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.
With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.
As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.
Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.
Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.
Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.
Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.
Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”
Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.
Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.
Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?
The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.