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Riddled with Injuries, the Canadiens Face a Tough Battle

With Brendan Gallagher added to the injury list, Montreal needs to maintain their focus and move forward.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

It was the blocked shot heard 'round the world on Sunday evening as Brendan Gallagher fractured two fingers after blocking a slapshot from New York Islanders' Johnny Boychuk. Gallgher underwent successful surgery Monday and is not expected to return to the Montreal Canadiens' bench for a few weeks.

"The way he got hurt is just typical of his character and the way he plays the game...And he stayed out there, which says a lot about his character. Obviously we don't want him to miss any time because he is such a valuable piece of this team." - Max Pacioretty

Gallagher, who was appointed alternate captain this season, has solidified himself as a first-line right-winger, and arguably, the Canadiens' second-best forward. Just looking at his numbers, it is plain to see that Gallagher was off to an exceptional season.

2013-2014 81 19 22 41 9.0 S%
2014-2015 82 24 23 47 9.4 S%
2015-2016 22 9 10 19 12.9 S%

The Habs currently have a few players out with injury: Alexei Emelin (lower body injury), Torrey Mitchell (lower body injury), Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body injury), and now, Gallagher. Due to the sudden onslaught of injuries, the Canadiens gave Greg Pateryn some ice time and called up Sven Andrighetto and Bud Holloway from St. John's. In addition, Alexander Semin played Sunday evening against the Islanders. Luckily, some of the injured players look to be close to returning, such as Smith-Pelly, who Michel Therrien confirmed as returning on Wednesday night.

While losing Gallagher is certainly less than ideal and poses quite a challenge for the team, I want to reiterate that this is not entirely a 'doom and gloom' situation. The Habs have been fortunate overall during the last few seasons, sustaining minimal injuries overall. Yes, the 22 games played this season have taken their toll on the club physically, but mentally, they are just as sound as ever.

"It might be hard to understand but I think our success is due to the atmosphere in here ... everyone is on the same page and everyone ensures that they are good to go when their number is called. It might sound cheesy, but it is 100% genuine, and I think that is the biggest reason we have so much depth." - Max Pacioretty

The Canadiens are fortunate to have some key leaders on this team, as well as knowledgeable veterans and a few younger players who have really found their stride. All in all, the team appears to mesh quite well. In a team climate, this tends to occur when all members are focused on working together towards some common goal. One could argue that in team sports, that common goal is simply to win. Many factors come into play when discussing team cohesion, but leadership and team factors are most important.

Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, and Brendan Gallagher were all appointed letters this season. Carey Price is unquestionably one of the team's biggest leaders as well. Each of these men exhibits a leadership style geared towards the team's best interest - notably, each athlete communicates with teammates both on and off the ice and maintains a positive attitude despite potential setbacks. These qualities greatly affect the overall team atmosphere.

Many of the members of this team have played with one another for quite a few years, with the majority having spent at least last season as a member of this organization. Out of currently active players, Holloway, Semin, Tomas Fleischmann, and Paul Byron were the additions this season. It is well-known that teams that stay together for longer periods of time have a higher level of cohesion due to shared experiences the members have faced together over that time. For example, when examining the influence of injuries on team playing performance, it was found that there was no significant relationship between the number of injuries a team faced and the team's overall seasonal performance.

While many factors come into play when examining a team's success, leadership and team factors may prove most important. The Canadiens have a tough battle ahead of them, especially with a key right-winger on the mend, but if these athletes can maintain the group mentality we have witnessed so far this season, they will continue to find a way light up the lamp.

Bittersweet Victory, retrieved from http://canadiens.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=789169

Gabbett, T.J. (2004). Influence of injuries on team playing performance in Rugby League. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 7(3): 340-346.

Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations for Sport and Exercise Psychology. (5th). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.