Alex Galchenyuk is phenomenally talented, but it was not long ago that a hat-trick, at centre, on the top line, would have sounded like a fantasy.
On Tuesday, it was real, and it was spectacular.
The Canadiens rolled over the league's 30th place team, starting with a dominant first period and ending with three gorgeous goals from their up-and-coming superstar. Tonight, the Habs face the team at the opposite end of the spectrum.
For all their struggles, the Carolina Hurricanes are likely not the league's worst squad, and by the same token, the Anaheim Ducks are likely not the league's best. Nonetheless, the challenge is clear. The Habs, with their new and improved lines in full force, will try to take their win streak to four.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30PM ET
In Quebec and Atlantic Canada (French): RDS
In Montreal: CITY-M
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.2||Fenwick % (Within 1)||50.6|
|1.16||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.02|
Know Your Enemy
Speaking of opposite ends of the spectrum, the Anaheim Ducks are starting to feel the injury bug. While the Habs have been unscathed nearly all year long, with the notable exception of Lars Eller's current absence, the Ducks are down a number of important contributors.
Corey Perry is out, having taken the brunt of a devastating Keith Ballard hip-check. Kyle Palmieri is also out, as well as defender Francois Beauchemin. The result is a reconfigured Anaheim lineup; one in need of an experienced depth forward.
As it happens, the Ducks acquired just such a player from the Canadiens recently. Rene Bourque has been up and down in his brief Duck career, a characteristic that might sound familiar to Habs fans. And while Anaheim fans might tell you that they won the swap, on the basis of Bourque's promotion to a line with Ryan Getzlaf, it looks like his level of production has been more of the same since he left Montreal.
Bourque has four points in his thirteen games out West, earned exclusively against Calgary and Edmonton. His deployment has varied from game to game, but even with an offensive push and exposure to elite linemates, the Ducks have only been better with Bourque on the ice in four of his thirteen games.
In reality, it looks like the trade is exactly what it appeared to be when it was confirmed. The Canadiens got the expiring contract of a player not suited to actually take the ice. The Ducks got a depth forward to stick into a lineup in need of an extra body. When two teams fill a need in a low stakes deal, everyone's a winner.
Last Time Out
When the Habs and Ducks last met, hours after the 2014 trade deadline expired, the Ducks had started a transition. Dustin Penner, remarkably unproductive despite his ice time being spent with Perry and Getzlaf, had been dealt to the Washington Capitals. As a result, the Ducks searched their depth, starting an open audition for first line right wing. A 4-3 shootout loss to the Habs probably isn't the outcome that Bruce Boudreau imagined.
Fast-forwarding to this evening, Rene Bourque and Devante Smith-Pelly flanking the Ducks' Olympian super-Centre probably probably isn't exactly what Bruce Boudreau had in mind, either. Despite the challenge of losing a top-flight winger, however, the Ducks continue to win.
When the Habs beat Anaheim in March, they did so on the strength of their shutdown line. Despite a concerted effort by Michel Therrien to put some combination of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, and Travis Moen in the path of Anaheim's top unit whenever possible, they still managed to come out ahead on both goals and possession.
Two-thirds of that line won't be available tonight, but somehow, Therrien will need to engineer a line that can produce a similar effort. If Montreal's most recently departed player has taught us anything, it's that almost won't be good enough.