<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators - Game Four

Galchenyuk is under the microscope in Montreal

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The Montreal Canadiens only managed one goal in plenty of playing time in Game 1 (a double-overtime 2-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning), shining a light on their scoring issues. It seems as though Alex Galchenyuk is one of the players sweating the most under that spotlight.

Galchenyuk, 21, only has two points in the postseason and has failed to score in five straight contests. Worst yet, he had a rough Game 1, taking three minor penalties before eventually getting demoted.

Like many other Canadiens – Habs Eyes on the Prize points out that their 2.69 shooting percentage in the playoffs is absurdly low – Galchenyuk said he merely hopes to get more bounces, as the Canadiens’ website reports.

“I know I need to go out there and try to help the team win as much as I can, but bounces don’t go your way sometimes. It’s a team sport. We’re all battling. These are really close games. We’ve all got to bring our game to the next level. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Galchenyuk said. “When you don’t get the bounces for a couple of games, you know they’ll eventually come when you keep working. That’s where my head is right now.”

Head coach Michel Therrien seems convinced that the Canadiens are close to breaking through, according to NHL.com.

“There’s a question of hockey karma also,” Therrien said. “You need breaks. We hit two posts, so we’re talking about an inch. If it’s one inch towards the inside, our offense is outstanding. It’s perception. But we don’t live in perception, we live in reality. We created good scoring chances, and if we keep working with the same determination we’ll get back on track.”

For better or worse, many eyes will be on Galchenyuk tonight and through the rest of the playoffs. That’s just the nature of playing in a pressure-cooker atmosphere such as Montreal.

Boudreau: Maroon can be a ‘big force’ for Anaheim

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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Line combinations change frequently in the NHL, and the Anaheim Ducks aren’t shy about trying out different wingers alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Perhaps they’ve found a more permanent fit in Patrick Maroon, though?

It makes sense in many ways.

Most obviously, the 27-year-old matches up with Perry and Getzlaf in providing a physical presence. NHL.com lists him at 231 lbs., pretty hefty for league standards. He’s been productive in the playoffs so far (four points in five games) and appears to be the Ducks dynamic duo’s most frequent linemate.

Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau told NHL.com that it’s all about Maroon becoming more reliable.

“When you’ve only been in this League for a little over two years, the consistency sometimes isn’t there,” Boudreau said. “That’s the only thing that’s plagued him through the course of the year. When he’s on top of his game, he’s a big force for us, but he’s back on that line because he’s been consistent of late and he’s been playing the same way. There’s no letdown in his game.”

“No letdown” is also a good way to describe how the Ducks played against the Flames in Game 1. We’ll see if Maroon & Co. can keep their impressive run going on Sunday night.

Good signs for Calgary: Hudler, Ferland take morning skate

Los Angeles Kings v Calgary Flames
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Even when a coach expects a player to bounce back from an injury and suit up for a given playoff game, you can only take his (or the skater’s) word for it to a point.

While Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley said he expected Jiri Hudler and Micheal Ferland to play in Game 2 after leaving Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks with undisclosed injuries, some were concerned when Ferland skipped Saturday’s skate. You never know when minds may change during warm-ups, but the good news is that both took a whirl during Sunday’s morning skate, as the Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson reports.

Ferland brings the sort of physical style that can be useful against the often-rugged Ducks. Hudler’s value is obvious enough: he led the team in scoring during the regular season and is a huge part of a stellar line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

That trio hopes to shake off a tough Game 1, in general. While Hudler got hurt, Gaudreau took a nasty cross-check and didn’t get a shift in the third period.

There wasn’t a lot of good news in Game 1, yet the Flames got an extra night to shake things off, and they’ve seen defensemen Raphael Diaz (game-time decision) and Mark Giordano (still likely far away from returning) at least practice this weekend.

If that 6-1 drubbing is any indication, Calgary has a long way to go to really make the Ducks sweat, but at least things seem to be trending in some positive directions.

Smith-Pelly doesn’t want to ‘jinx’ Habs locking down Stamkos

Steven Stamkos, Alexei Emelin
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The thought has been that Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos was “due” and that maybe a change in opponent in the Montreal Canadiens would finally light his fire.

That didn’t happen in Game 1 of the second round, however, as he failed to generate a point in a 2-1 double-overtime win for the Bolts.

Many focus on Stamkos’ zero goals so far in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, and for a while, that might not have been a fair narrative (people all too often ignore assists, for one thing). His lack of production is more glaring as time goes on, however; Stamkos only has one assist in the past six playoff games. He’s gone two straight contests without a point.

There are bright sides – he’s still shooting, his team is generally winning and he hasn’t been on the ice for a ton of goals allowed – yet the Habs are at the point where they’re quietly noticing his lack of points. Devante Smith-Pelly told NHL.com that he didn’t want to “jinx” their success.

“You look at the stat sheet and you see Stamkos didn’t have a goal, but at the same time that’s the guy you’re really worried about,” Smith-Pelly said. “If he gets one, chances are it’s going to snowball the wrong way for us. We did a good job and we’re going to continue to play hard on all their guys.”

Again, it’s not all bad, though.

Of course, the troubling thing for the Canadiens and other teams is that the Lightning are winning even with opponents neutralizing Stamkos. The line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov is picking up the slack to the point that his struggles haven’t been fatal. The Bolts are hoping they can keep this pick-your-poison proposition going.

For Stamkos’ perspective on his struggles, read this post.

Haula gets in Wild mix with Fontaine hurt

Dwight King, Erik Haula
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In the 2014 postseason, Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula made a name for himself with strong play against the Chicago Blackhawks. He’ll get a chance to do so again starting with Game 2 on Sunday.

The Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff reports that Haula will make his 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs debut with Justin Fontaine injured. It appears as though Haula may line up with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak.

Again, the Blackhawks will be all-too-familiar with the 24-year-old’s work.

The Finn scored three goals and two assist for five points in Minnesota’s competitive six-game series with the Blackhawks. One of those tallies was a game-winner:

He hasn’t made much of an impact at the NHL level outside of that great work against Chicago, which probably explains why he wasn’t able to crack the Wild lineup before Game 2 (it doesn’t help his cause that Minnesota’s become increasingly deep at the forward position, mind you).

To state the obvious, the Wild would be overjoyed if Haula can make history repeat itself … although a series win would be a welcome twist.