Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Musings: The Mighty Brendan Gallagher

Greetings Habs Addicts,

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Well it certainly was a tail of two teams this week in Montreal. The week started off with Carey Price posting his third shutout of the season, a 36-save effort in a 3-0 win over Carolina. This was followed up with the surprising decision to start Peter Budaj this past Thursday in Boston. This was a curious decision by Michel Therrien, as the Habs had back-to-back games coming up over the weekend. However, it proved to be the right choice as Budaj stopped 34 of 35 shots that came his way and upped his career record to 4-0 vs the Bruins in a 4-1 win. Then things took a turn for the worse, as the sticks went cold again over Superbowl weekend. Tampa Bay came to town for the annual Saturday matinee and the teams battled to another 2-1 score, this time an overtime win for Tampa. Ben Bishop continued his Vezina-caliber play and Price was solid, facing 36 shots on goal for the second straight start. Superbowl Sunday's matinee was an all-Canadian affair as the Winnipeg Jets came to town. Al Montoya continued his surprisingly solid season in goal; arguably, the former first-round draft pick should be starting, as he has considerably outplayed the incumbent Ondrej Pavelec this season when given the opportunity. Montoya shined stopping 30 shots in a 2-1 Jets victory. This week the power-play struggled mightily, scoring only 1 goal in 13 chances. The penalty kill was a perfect 12-12 this week, and 20-20 dating back to the Washington game.

Onto my musings of the week that was.

- Brendan Gallagher had a solid week this week, tallying 1 goal to go along with 3 assists. As always, he played his usual physical game and took a pounding around the goal crease. The spark-plug has had another solid season for Montreal, even if his scoring pace is slightly off from last year. Against Winnipeg on Sunday, Gallagher was physical but also ended up in the penalty box three times. First, he was called for roughing - a coincidental minor with Mark Stuart - which is simply a by-product of him playing his style of game. He was also called for holding and tripping, the later of which negated a Montreal power-play late in the third period. These two penalties hurt the Habs more on the ice than on the scoreboard. What most fans were up in arms about on Sunday occurred in the final minute of the game with the Montreal net empty, the Habs could not enter the Winnipeg zone for roughly 20 seconds as Gallagher was punched, held, tripped and hit by Jets goalie Montoya and defensemen Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba. Not a single penalty was called at this time.
"There could have been five penalties there. We're definitely going to ask the league for explanations. It's very frustrating. It could have given us the chance to tie the game." - Canadiens coach Michel Therrien
After the game was over, Josh Gorges spoke on Gallagher's behalf. Gorges wisely did not allow the fired-up Gallagher to speak to the media. Knowing our chatty super-smurf has a fiery personality, us fans would have loved to hear that sound-bite, but Gallagher's wallet most likely would not have. Kudos to Gorges for saving his tenant some of his rent money. Here's a snippet of what Gorges had to say after the game:
"I have to be careful with what I say... It was pretty evident they were not allowing him to get out of the zone. He took a punch to the head from the goalie, got tripped up from the defenseman, and the guy coming off the bench gave him another shot... I can't comment on how (the referees) feel toward any one individual player. I don't know if there's a grudge or something. It's too bad... It wasn't the difference, but it was a frustrating way to end the game" - Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges
Whether justified or not, Brendan Gallagher has been taking a beating for his style of play. His feisty, relentless style has irked opponents and he's often found in front of the goalie, taking punches, cross checks and slashes as he does his best to screen, deflect shots or bang home rebounds. He's been an asset on the power-play, with 7 of his 14 goals coming with the man advantage but there is only so much abuse his 5'9", 178 pound frame can take. Its also becoming evident that the referees are not giving him the calls that similar plays would garner on other players, justly or not. The non-calls at the end of the this game seemed to be the boiling point on what has been a simmering issue all season long. Gallagher is not a dirty player. He may have some Brad Marchand-like qualities, but he's definitely not Marchand. This was a terrible job of officiating.

- P.J. Stock - who most Habs fans on Twitter feel might be the worst analyst in hockey - had some praise and positive comments about Brendan Gallagher post-game. Stock took issue with the Jets treatment of Gallagher and praised his relentlessness. While he agreed that taking three penalties is bad, especially when one negated a power-play, he also agreed that Gallagher should not change his game. Nor should Michel Therrien try to change his game - maybe just tweak it slightly to keep him out of the penalty box. Most importantly, Stock questioned why the smallest player on the team is the only one going hard to the front of the net, fighting the crease battles and taking the abuse while bigger, stronger wingers - Rene Bourque & Max Pacioretty were called out, but Lars Eller should have been mentioned too - prefer to spend their game out on the perimeter. Stock went on to say that the coaches should show video of Gallagher's play to these two players. Its not too often that I agree with P.J. Stock, but I whole-heartedly agree with everything he had to say about Gallagher post-game. The Canadiens would be better served having Pacioretty and Bourque playing a game better suited to their skills. They are bigger, stronger players and should be getting to the front of the net or the slot with more regularity. When you rank next to last in even-strength scoring, you need to change what you're doing. This is a change that needs to be made. If you're not scoring the pretty goals, you better make a serious effort to get the garbage goals. Wake up, boys, and start using your size to your advantage.

- Douglas Murray was paired up with Nathan Beaulieu this week. While I will continue to remind everyone here and on Twitter that Douglas Murray has no business being in the NHL, Nathan Beaulieu would be better served never seeing the Hamilton ice ever again. He has not looked out of place and has been moving the puck up ice with confidence. While he will make the odd defensive lapses - as all rookies do - he has also been playing his off-wing since he's been recalled. While he has admitted that its new to him, he has not had an issue making the transformation. But here's my question: Why do you have a rookie defender playing his off-wing for the first time in the NHL? If you knew you wanted him playing the right side, why did you not have him playing on that side in Hamilton? It's time to eliminate Douglas Murray from the line-up and pair Beaulieu with the right-handed shooting Raphael Diaz. Diaz has not been great, but he has not been terrible for Montreal this year, but allowing Beaulieu to shift to his natural side and be paired up with another capable puck-mover should again aid the Canadiens in the offensive zone. The rookie should be here to stay. Next up: Jarred Tinordi.

- Last week we saw rumour of P.A. Parenteau being dealt from Colorado to Montreal in exchange for Rene Bourque. While it seems there were other pieces involved that led the breakdown of this deal, Parenteau is two years younger than Bourque, but does carry a slightly larger cap hit. There has been no confirmation one way or another from Marc Bergevin's office, so this remains a rumour only. It is worth noting that Parenteau has been a healthy scratch recently in Colorado. Also on the trade front, Ryan Callahan's agent has been given permission by the New York Rangers captain to seek a trade. While I do like his playing style, his contract demands this off-season may be too steep. But he's a Marc Bergevin type - a physical winger with leadership skills. Our very own Mike Gowing (@habsosaurus) wrote an analysis of Ryan Callahan when reports of his availability surfaced.

We're getting close to the Sochi Olympic break. With three games remaining before the break, the Habs look to finish strong. On the schedule this week we have two home games against Western Canadian teams: the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and the Vancouver Canucks visit on Thursday. The Habs enter the break with a road rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes. If the Habs can parlay the strong defensive effort they showed this past week, they could potentially go 3-0 and sweep the week. Of course, when you're relying on your goalies to stop an average of 35.5 shots per game like they did this past week, they can easily go 0-3 and give up 12+ goals against. With this years Montreal Canadiens, either one can happen.

Three Questions from my Musings:

A) Should leading goal-scorer Max Pacioretty start to use his size and play more of a Brendan Gallagher style of play in front of the net or continue to snipe from the perimeter/high slot?

B) Should Nathan Beaulieu be returned to his natural (left) side or continue to play the (right) off-wing side of his defensive pairing?

C) Should the Habs pursue Ryan Callahan or P.A. Parenteau?

Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.


Well, the Diaz/Weise trade will change those plans for Beaulieu...

@Mineral: Yes, I would say that certainly changes that strategy.

Although not ideal I think Beaulieu is okay on either side.
I would not trade for Parenteau or Callahan. Parenteau is skilled but soft and Callahan is asking too much for what he provides. Habs need an offensive big man who is going to post 70-80 pts.
Should be looking at Kane. Pay the price. Last I heard 2 NHl calibre players and prospects. Give up Desharnais, Bourque,Pateryn and 1st. Not sure if that would get it done but a good starting point.
Would like them try for C Stewart or W Simmonds as well. Time to trade their wealth of prospects. Main core of team is young. Can't wait for others to develop.

I didn't really answer any of your questions either.

While MaxPac does have the size to be effective in the goal crease, i don't think he would do a better job then Gallagher. Gally is a pro in that area at this stage, and i think Max's shot allows him to be more productive with sniping a bit further out. Gally is a little less effective with his shot and needs to bang the garbage goals.

Playing defense (or any player for that matter) off their natural side irks me to no end. That just shows how poorly personnel are managed with the habs. The flux of centermen, and having like 5/6 defensemen being natural lefties. Eller should not play wing. Briere in most cases should not play wing. Chucky has trouble on the wing a lot of the time because he isn't as strong on the boards. Friggin' Emelin is being made to look like a fool with the amount of time he has to spend on the right-side. It's ridiculous. And it looks like the same story is repeating with Beaulieu. I find it's poor asset management, really. You get less out of your players when putting them in a less effective position.

I don't think either Parenteau or Callahan should be pursued. Do we need more 2nd liners? We have 6 of them already. If i had to make a choice, Callahan hands down; he's all character. But the money he's asking for is completely outrageous. Hasn't score 30 before, and 54 pts tops. He's 5'10. You don't pay that for character. Parenteau is just another token French player who does not fit here, nor do we need his skill set given our current talent. We can thank the media for his name even still being mentioned a week later.


I agree Patches is better served in the high-slot, but Rene Bourque should take a page out of Gallagher's book no doubt.

Poor asset management, great assessment. Pretty much nailed it.

I would not pay Callahan what he wants either, Parenteau is fine, but he's just a taller Desharnais with a bigger cap. Not physical, pass first player. No thanks.

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