1. Brendan Gallagher is back and it makes the Canadiens a really dangerous team
It’s hard to remember the last time Brendan Gallagher was on top of his game. Dealing with brutal injuries the last two seasons, he has struggled to be the player he was.
I remember having conversations before the season started with people who thought he was nothing more than a good third-line player. He’s still a third-line player, technically, but he’s a great one who leads the team in scoring and has seven goals this season after getting 10 last year. In fact, he has 48 games to score three goals to match his scoring pace from a year ago.
Gallagher’s effort was always there, and the shots were always coming. But there’s something different about him when his plays are going in the net. Whether it’s finishing plays or creating them like the assist on Tomas Plekanec’s goal in Winnipeg, a great Gallagher means that you have to pay attention to three lines who can score on you. That’s a recipe for success for any team in the NHL.
If it wasn’t for the last two fluke injuries, he would have missed one NHL game in his career. Let’s hope we see this player again for a while.
2. Charlie Lindgren is this team’s number one goaltender - for now
Usually when the starting goaltender (just one, not three of them, Vegas) goes down to injury, the backup is the one who gets the brunt of the work. But as we saw in the 2014 playoffs, sometimes the third-string goaltender gets the call.
What a save by Charlie Lindgren on James Neal pic.twitter.com/BnSmVMXHEP— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 8, 2017
This is nothing against Al Montoya. He’s proven to be a good backup in the NHL. But until Carey Price comes back, Charlie Lindgren should be the starting goaltender for the Canadiens. Ignore the 5-0 NHL record (although it helps). He just looks like the best goaltender the Canadiens have had this year. He gives the Canadiens the best chance to win and it’s the perfect situation for his development.
He gets to play instead of sitting on the bench, and Montoya is there if he needs a day off or starts to struggle. If you ask people who actually watched him play in the American Hockey League, Lindgren’s numbers are somewhat deceiving with many goals coming on the penalty kill and in between some very nice saves and strong play.
The real question is what happens when Price comes back. If Lindgren is playing really well, you can’t just send him back to Laval but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
3. The Habs’ number one centre left the game, and I feel fine
Jonathan Drouin left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury, believed to be to the hand. Normally, this would be cause for panic. Remember when Saku Koivu went down and the Habs had to use Steve Begin on the top line?
Here's Jonathan Drouin's potential injury, took a puck to the hand pic.twitter.com/vSj0SfoUSA— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 8, 2017
But Alex Galchenyuk played centre, Paul Byron was promoted to play with Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen, Charles Hudon played with Plekanec and Gallagher and everything just fell into place.
Forward depth was never this team’s problem, and while Drouin’s injury is not ideal - if it is long term - the Canadiens are in a good place to continue moving forward. Those narratives that said the Habs lack scoring just weren’t paying attention. Not many teams could lose a #1 centre so seamlessly.
4. The shots made the game look closer than it was
The Golden Knights got better as the game went on, but most of that was because the Canadiens were playing closer defensively for most of the final 30 minutes of the game. Even though the shots were 31-28 Vegas at the end of the game, the high danger chances were 12-9 Montreal according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Canadiens didn’t really allow too many dangerous chances, except for two in the final two minutes. One, all five players were watching the puck and allowed Erik Haula to walk in all alone to make it 3-2, and the second was when the puck was loose dangerously in the crease in the final minute.
However, no Golden Knight player was even really close to the puck so it looked worse than it actually was.
But honestly, after the start the Canadiens had to the season, the most important thing is winning. Yes, you don’t want to be outplayed every night, but in this situation they weren’t really outplayed, and they got the win anyways.
5. It’s called a winning streak
Whenever a team struggles and then starts to put wins together, I remember this clip from the great movie Major League II.
Well the Canadiens are at the three-in-a-row part now. It has happened before.
But it’s more than that. It’s five out of their last six and six out of their last eight since coming back from California.
All those people saying how the Canadiens needed to play .667 hockey for the rest of the year to make the playoffs? Well that number has gone down because they’ve played .750 over their last eight and .833 over their last six.
They have five games left on the homestand, with teams like Arizona and Buffalo among games with Columbus, Minnesota and Toronto. It’s a good time to start sending a message to everyone who was writing them off. With or without Carey Price.